It's As Old As The Silk Trade
From The Desk Of
Drumlin S Boulder
Well its been one of those mornings!
Stacking Pits & Cavities, major rivals in our market space, got wind of
some of our corporate research activities and they’re crying foul,
claiming we stole confidential, competitive information which we used to
develop a new add-on to our Portable Holes control unit. We were served
papers this morning. Plus they put out a news release to our local
newspaper, who’ve sent a reporter out to talk to me. He’s in reception
now being pampered and softened up by Sophia, our Manager of First
Now corporate espionage is as old as the silk trade and we of course
insist we’ve done nothing illegal. Sure we practice dumpster dunking,
but since they don’t seem to want to keep their containers on their own
property, we feel their garbage on public property is fair game for a
I guess what tipped them off is that for the fourth time in a row, we
beat them to the market with an innovation. This time it was new volume
transponders that made our Portable Holes really kick butt. And The
Eureka was an extension to our trans-couplers that solved more of the
types of issues their innovation claimed solve, clumsily I'll add
derisively and proud of our Slide Rule .
But I guess they got suspicious, and apparently someone photographed our
guy Pronto in white coveralls, stepping out of his pick up truck and
taking some of their garbage away. Or so the lawsuit says. I haven’t yet
seen the picture but I’m sure Pronto looks good on it. He is our most
Now I’m not sure why they’re crying foul. We think that every competitor
worth their salt knows what’s going on in their markets almost as soon
as it happens, and anyway, if the material we found was so confidential,
they should have hired one of those mobile paper shredding companies
like we do.
“Besides“, I said to our lawyer, Marvin Bezzle, “we don’t resort to
every dirty trick in the book, like lying, stealing, breaking in, or
pretending we’re head hunters and interviewing their staff. We keep
things simple and, well, almost clean.”
“And”, I added, “we look after our confidential information. Paper gets
shredded, we tell our employees not to speak to strangers in bars, or on
business flights.” I learned that one some years while in the airport
lounge for a flight home from a trade show. I heard two guys talking
about multi flanges, components used a lot in our industry. Since these
items have limited uses, I lifted the newspaper I was reading to hide
myself and listened as they merrily let me in on some big orders they
were chasing… which we later won because I'd learned their strategy.
We also know where to get good information legitimately. We do internet
searches, study sales brochures, and we talk to our customers about what
our competitors are good at. At trade shows we express a sincere
interest in our competitor’s products, and sometimes eager and excited
sales people give us what we want…of course we know what to ask for.
I do admit crossing the line somewhat once with a US company, but boy
they were dumb. My buddy Geldmus had just bought one of those early big
beta cams, and I decided it was just what I needed for a plant tour. I
called them and lied, claiming to be a reporter wanting to interview
their CEO, which, being the swelled head I’d heard he was, he
immediately set a date for. We walked all around his plant, talking to
him while videotaping equipment, schedules, and assorted other little
gems. He was so busy trying to be a star that he never noticed what we
were doing. He even fed us lunch in their executive dining room. Last I
heard the company had been sold to a rival and he was working as the
team mascot for their local AAA baseball team. I guess show business was
in his blood.
But with Stacking Pits & Cavities, public property dumpster dunking is
what we've done best.
We’ve found used travel tickets that told us where they‘d been,
appointment calendars that told us who they’d seen, company newsletters
with announcements, policy-meeting drafts and so on, all filled with
project data, details about people, and other good information. With
enough scraps like those, I can put together all I need to know to cause
a lot of damage. If Stacking Pits and Cavities puts it all together in
an easy to carry away container and leaves it on public property, it is
an obvious signal the consider it garbage or at list place little value
on it. You'd think they'd shred it if they cared.
Which brings us back to the case in point.
“The courts generally look at to what extent the disputed information
was known to company insiders and those outside of the company, how
carefully the information was guarded, its value to competitors, how
much time, effort and money was invested in it, and how easy it was to
get” Marvin explained to me, “So as long as you did not trespass, or
commit any illegal act, you should be fine.”
“Can I call them weenies for complaining? ”, I asked, eager for an
opportunity to make them look ridiculous, but Marvin advised against it.
He gave me the following statement to give to the press. “Portable Holes
Inc denies any wrongdoing in the matter raised by Stacking Pits &
Cavities and will vigorously defend itself against this lawsuit which it
firmly believes is without merit“.
I thanked him for the words, lamented the opportunity to do business
with him, and wrote some notes down on my scratch pad.
Then I called Sophia to stop impressing the reporter and send him in.