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A former employee’s counterclaim to certain rights in a software program is not sufficiently linked to the company’s own lawsuit over trade secrets to allow the matters to be litigated jointly, the U.S. District Court for Minnesota decided Nov. 14 ( Equus Computer Systems v. Northern Computer Systems, No. 01-657, D. Minn.). Judge Donovan W. Frank dismissed a counterclaim by Jay T. Erickson against his former employer, Equus Computer Systems, over rights to the “configurator” program developed while Erickson worked for Equus. The program is used to configure price quotes for prospective customers. Equus alleges that before leaving the company in March, Erickson, a sales representative, misappropriated customer information and marketing plans. Equus’ claims against Erickson and his current employer, Northern Computer Systems Inc., include violation of trade secrets, trespass to chattels, conversion, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. � 1030) and violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (18 U.S.C. �� 2701, et seq.) Equus also claims that Erickson is guilty of a breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of contract, and tortious interference with prospective clients, and Northern is guilty of tortious interference with current contracts. In asking the court to dismiss Erickson’s state law counterclaims, Equus contended that they do not arise from the same set of operative facts as its claims and the court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Judge Frank said other courts have exercised jurisdiction where wage claims accompanied claims for personal injury or some other substantive claim, but in each case the courts found a common relationship between the claims and counterclaims. In the instant case, Erickson does not argue that his claim arises from the same set of operative facts, but on the contrary, “describes his claim for compensation as arising throughout the term of his employment with Equus,” Rank said. “While Plaintiff would define the scope as those facts relating to the termination of Defendant Erickson from his employment at Equus; Defendant Erickson would expand the scope to include both Erickson’s employment at Equus and his termination. The court does not view the nucleus of operative facts in this case to extend beyond the events leading to Erickson’s termination from Equus,” the judge found. Counsel for Equus: Barton C. Gernander and Clint S. Bogden of Meagher & Geer in Minneapolis. Counsel for Erickson and Northern Computer Systems: Shannon M. McDonough of Fafinksi, Mark & Johnson in Eden Prairie, Minn.

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