NOCO (Glenwillow, OH) has sued CTEK, a competitor in the battery charger and automotive accessory market, alleging a CTEK employee stole a notebook with sales-related information from NOCO’s booth at the Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo in Mebourne last month.
The employee, who hasn’t been identified, was arrested at the expo after surveillance video allegedly showed him taking a notebook filled with NOCO sales strategy and contacts.
The lawsuit, filed April 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, includes federal claims for theft of trade secrets and conspiracy to steal trade secrets.
“Obviously, we are disappointed with CTEK’s behavior, but it is further evidence of a possible systematic corporate mandate to attempt to curtail NOCO’s growth in the marketplace,” Thomas Smith, NOCO’s public relations director, said. “We are aggressively pursuing all of our legal rights and will not stop until justice is served.”
CTEK, which is based in Sweden, denied corporate involvement.
“That individual acted completely on his own, and in disregard of CTEK’s Code of Conduct and instructions,” CEO Jon Lind said in a statement. “This was an isolated incident by a person acting at his own behest. This person is no longer employed or otherwise associated with CTEK.”
NOCO and CTEK both attended the expo, hosted by the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association April 4-6, as exhibitors. While there, NOCO’s Oceania sales director created a so-called LAD Book (which stands for Leads, Actions and Discussions) for the expo. The book included at least 15 different customer leads, notes and action items, according to the lawsuit. Other NOCO employees updated the information until the book went missing April 4.
Suspecting theft, NOCO employees reported the incident to the expo’s managers and requested a review of video surveillance. A review the next day showed a man taking the book, according to the lawsuit. Melbourne police arrested a suspect, charged him with a misdemeanor and then released him.
“The thief stole not just NOCO’s A4 LAD Book, which was itself valuable, but also stole NOCO’s time, energy and attention from its sales activities at the Expo,” according to the lawsuit. The book has not been recovered.
NOCO’s complaints against CTEK have been ongoing.
“Throughout the years, CTEK has engaged in a variety of unfair and dishonest competition practice ― varying from publishing a libelous ‘analysis’ of NOCO’s products (in 2013), to unlawfully entering and reviewing NOCO’s materials after hours at a trade show (Automechanika Frankfurt in 2014), to now outright stealing NOCO’s trade secrets,” according to the lawsuit.
In his statement, Lind denied wrongdoing.
“CTEK stands for integrity and professionalism,” he said. “It has zero tolerance for dishonest conduct against competitors or any other business partners. CTEK will continue on its current track, driven by strong CTEK values, in order to grow on its own merits.”
In addition to seeking monetary damages, NOCO is asking for the return of its book and injunctive protection against the use or dissemination of the book’s information by CTEK. — Sarah Hollander