Who stole my cheese? $22 million awarded for pilfered cheese-making secrets

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After a nine-day trial, a Kandiyohi County jury has awarded $22.7 million to a Willmar company that sued two former employees for stealing business secrets related to cheese-making equipment.

Twin Cities Business reports that Relco alleged that the pair quit their jobs in 2009 and took confidential files to a Wisconsin competitor. Relco designs and manufactures processing systems and equipment for dairy, food, and pharmaceutical factories.

The Business Journal reported that the jury ruled that two former Relco employees took engineering drawings, pricing estimates and consumer information to their new employer, Cheese Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Marshfield, Wis.-based Custom Fabricating and Repair Inc. The two had signed non compete agreements. Relco had alleged that when the two quit the company, they said they were going to work on a mozzarella cheese cooker.

An attorney at Minneapolis-based law firm Grey Plant Mooty, which represented Relco, said the two companies are discussing how the damages will be resolved.

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