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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In the 1990s, Global Water Technologies Inc. (GWT) created the first successful mobile self-powered, self-contained water purification system. It is undisputed that GWT treated this system and associated products as trade secrets and required all employees to sign confidentiality agreements. Robert Atchley was GWT’s president and was familiar with its product line and had access to all of the claimed trade secrets. Atchley resigned from GWT in 1994. In 1995, all of GWT’s assets, including its trade secrets, were acquired by Global Water Group Inc. (Global), who was then known as AMW. GWT and Global remained legally separate entities, but GWT retained no assets and ceased operating. Four years later, in 1999, Atchley began manufacturing portable self-sustained water purification systems through his company Aspen Water Inc. Global sued Aspen and Atchley, claiming conspiracy and misappropriation of trade secrets. Following a jury trial, the jury found Atchley and Aspen Water had misappropriated Global’s trade secrets and that Global suffered one million dollars in damages based on lost profits. The jury identified two trade secrets: 1. a formula used in a “mixed media pod” which is a device used to remove contaminates from water; and 2. the “sequence of the process” Global used for water purification. Following the jury’s verdict, Atchley and Aspen Water filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, asserting that: Global failed to prove it had a trade secret in its mixed media formula or the sequence of the process; or that Atchley or Aspen used any such alleged secrets. The trial court granted Atchley and Aspen Water’s motion and entered judgment that Global take nothing on its claims. This appeal followed. HOLDING:Affirmed. A trial court’s decision to grant a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the court stated, should be affirmed if the evidence is legally insufficient to support one or more of the jury findings on issues necessary to liability. A trade secret, the court stated, is any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one’s business and presents an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. To determine whether information constitutes a trade secret, a court considers the following six factors: 1. the extent to which the information is known outside the claimant’s business; 2. the extent to which the information is known by employees and others involved in the claimant’s business; 3. the extent of the measures taken by the claimant to guard the secrecy of the information; 4. the value of the information to the claimant and to its competitors; 5. the amount of effort or money expended by the claimant in developing the information; and 6. the ease or difficulty with which the information could be properly acquired or duplicated by others. To determine whether the trial court properly granted Global’s JNOV motion, the court reviewed the water purification process at issue. Proper water purification, the court stated, requires three steps. First, large particles are removed by filtration. Then, the water is treated with a compound to remove chemicals (absorption). Finally, iodine or UV treatment kills viruses or bacteria in the water (disinfection). These three steps are commonly and generally known and are required for any proper water purification. What Global contends are trade secrets, the court stated, are the formula of the compound it used in a mixed media pod in the second “absorption” step and the “sequence of the process” it used to purify water. The court found legally insufficient evidence to show misappropriation of the formula of Global’s mixed media pod. In addition, the court found that Global failed to identify any “sequence of the process.” Thus, the court found that the trial court did not erred in granting the JNOV motion on the claim. The court also found that Atchley did not violate a noncompete clause of a shareholder agreement, because the clear terms of the shareholder agreement only prohibited Atchley from competing against GWT. OPINION:O’Neill, J.; Moseley, O’Neill and Lang, JJ.

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