The popular Five Guys chain was sued by a former architecture firm after it switched to a new architectural firm started by one of the employees who had worked on projects at the former architectural company. When the employee forged out on his own, the chain took its business to the former employee’s new start-up company. In the process, the former employee allegedly created new store designs using the former architect’s original plans without its approval. The chain then passed those revised plans on to other architects via a software called Buzzsaw who oversaw construction of stores across the country. The complaint alleges that the former architect repeatedly reminded Five Guys that it (the architect) owned all of the copyrights in the plans it created. The suit alleges counts of copyright infringement, violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and vicarious liability.
Many professionals are subject to restrictions when they leave employment. They can have non-compete provisions, confidentiality agreements and even intellectual property restrictions. Even though you might think the breach was done by the former employee, there is a risk of potential liability for your business as a party actively contributing to the breach. It is a good idea to consult your legal team when you find yourself in a situation where you want to work with an employee of a former product or service provider.
The case is Soos & Associates Inc. v. Five Guys Enterprises LLC et al., case number 1:17-cv-06577, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.