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Brightpoint suing former exec in trade secret dispute

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Brightpoint Inc. is suing a former top executive for allegedly taking company trade secrets to a new job with a direct competitor.

The Indianapolis-based wireless distributor filed suit in Marion Superior Court on Monday against Mitch Black, who left Brightpoint last year and took a similar position with Brightstar Corp. in Miami earlier this month.

Brightpoint accuses Black of breaching both his employment contract and the state’s trade secrets act, in addition to committing fraud.

“Black will be performing services for Brightstar that are extremely similar — if not identical — to the services he performed for Brightpoint,” the company said in its complaint. “Moreover, at Brightstar, Black will be working with, and soliciting business from, many of the very same clients and suppliers that he was paid to develop relationships [with] on behalf of Brightpoint.”

In his 12 years at Brightpoint, Black rose through the managerial ranks to become senior vice president, a position that gave him responsibility for the company’s entire North American distribution division, according to the lawsuit.

Black also had daily access to Brightpoint’s confidential and proprietary business information and trade secrets, and he was integrally involved in the company’s strategic planning, Brightpoint charged.

Black resigned from Brightpoint in November 2010 to accept a job as president of sales and purchasing for New Jersey-based PCS Wireless Inc., a company that Brightpoint did not consider to be a direct competitor, the complaint said.

Less than a year later, Black and Brightpoint began discussing his return to the Indianapolis company. Ultimately, Black refused the offer and joined Brightstar instead.

Brightpoint alleges in its suit that its negotiations with Black will cause severe harm to the company.

“During the course of these discussions and trading on the trust, friendship and goodwill that he had built with Brightpoint over a 12-year period, Black cajoled additional trade secret and confidential information about Brightpoint’s business and strategic plans from unwitting Brightpoint executives,” the complaint said.

Brightpoint further alleges that Black admitted taking confidential information from Brightpoint, including the operating plan for an entire Brightpoint division, detailed spreadsheets containing sensitive financial and accounting data, and customer lists.

Brightpoint is asking the court to forbid Black from providing services for Brightstar that violate his employment agreements, and to prohibit Brightstar from using Brightpoint’s trade secrets to “unfairly” compete against the company.

Brightpoint also is seeking an undetermined amount in damages.

This story originally ran on IBJ.com Dec. 21, 2011.

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