Are there enough secrets in coffee, even upscale artisanal coffee, to be worth suing over? We may soon find out as two of the oldest and best-regarded artisan coffee roasters seem to be moving toward court. Robert Quinlan was the director of operations at Intelligentsia until he was let go in June 2012. He signed a severance deal which included paying him for several more months, in return for the usual (don’t disclose trade secrets, don’t badmouth Intelligentsia). But then he got the CEO position at Metropolis Coffee, and now Intelligentsia has filed a lawsuit claiming that he tipped off another Intelligentsia employee that she was about to be terminated, and also that just the fact of being Metropolis’ CEO meant “Quinlan’s inevitable disclosure of Intelligentsia’s trade-secret information will cause Intelligentsia to suffer damages in the form of lost revenue and profits."
We Are Not Anywhere Near a Lawyer, but it is our understanding that corporate claims to owning the contents of your head after firing you are pretty hard to win in Illinois, and we imagine it might be a little tough to win jury (or customer) sympathy for a claim that "It wasn’t fair that he stopped us from sneaking up on someone and firing them out of the blue," either. So based at least on press reports so far, it’s hard to see how Intelligentsia comes out of any of this a winner, no matter what happens. But there may be more to it than that, so we’ll watch as this case develops. [Sun-Times]