Three former executives of Trek Inc., a Lockport electronic instrument maker, have denied charges by the new owner of the company that they violated confidentiality agreements by making plans to start a competing business in partnership with Trek's founder.
"To date, Trek has absolutely no evidence that defendants have done anything wrong," their attorney, Brian D. Gwitt, wrote to the company's lawyers on March 12.
The former employees denied all claims of wrongdoing and said they never signed any kind of noncompete agreement with Trek, according to their responses in court files.
Advanced Energy Industries of Fort Collins, Colo., acquired Trek for $12 million on Jan. 31.
The next day, Trek’s president, Michael D. Dehn of Amherst; the sales and customer service manager, Brian L. Carmer of Somerset; and a senior electronic engineer, Peter McAnn of Medina, all resigned. A letter from their attorney in the court file said they had told Advanced Energy during the sale talks, which began in November, that they did not want to stay.
Trek's new owners sued them on Feb. 6, charging that they violated conflict of interest and confidentiality agreements, which they signed when they were hired, by allegedly planning to "steal as many of Trek's customers as possible."
"A simple internet search will show most, if not all, of (Trek's) major semiconductor equipment manufacturing customers," Gwitt wrote.
As for trade secrets, Gwitt wrote that he doesn't think Trek has any.
"It is well-known in the industry that competitors have reverse-engineered and duplicated (Trek's) circuitry," Gwitt wrote. "All circuitry information was unrestricted and available to most employees."
David J. Rudroff, Trek's local attorney, did not respond to a call seeking comment.
The court file includes emails by Dehn and Trek's founder, Bruce T. Williams, selected from some 1,500 pages of material the defense says it has turned over.
"Intent to start new business – must avoid non-compete clause," Dehn wrote to Williams on Nov. 9.
Williams wrote to his attorney on Dec. 14, "Mike (Dehn) is one of the principals involved in the formation of the new company which will be started soon after the sale of Trek Holding to AEI (Advanced Energy)."
In a Jan. 5 email, Williams said he intended "to start a new business which will probably compete with AEI, but will not use any proprietary information owned by Trek Inc. or AEI. The products which would be developed by the new company will be the result of information gained and design activities occurring after my employment and consultation agreements with Trek Inc."
Trek's suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction barring Dehn, Carmer and McAnn from soliciting business from any current Trek customer for one year, and from ever using any of Trek’s confidential information in their new business.
Williams founded Trek in Medina in 1968. Trek's research and development office moved to Lockport in 2011, followed in 2013 by the rest of the company. About 115 people work at Trek's Harrison Place site, and the company also has a plant in Tokyo.