Think Tank Software Development Corporation, d/b/a Think Tank Networking Technologies Group and Think Tank Information Systems, Appellant-Plaintiff,
Chester, Inc., Mike Heinhold, John Mario, Joel Parker, Thomas Guelinas, Jon Meyer, Daniel Curry, Eric M. Wojciechoswki, Michael Gee, Philip Ryan Turner and Carl Zuhl, Appellees-Defendants
Appeal from the Porter Superior Court. The Honorable William E. Alexa, Special Judge. Cause No. 64D05-0205-PL-3861.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: William C. Wagner, Geoffrey Slaughter, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; Brian N. Custy, Merrillville, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: F. Joseph Jaskowiak, Lauren K. Kroeger, Hoeppner Wagner & Evans LLP, Merrillville, Indiana.
Baker, Judge. Vaidik, C.J. and May, J., concur.
[¶1] Think Tank Software Development Corporation d/b/a Think Tank Networking Technologies Group and Think Tank Information Systems (" Think Tank" ) appeals the trial court's directed verdict in favor of Defendants--Appellees Chester, Inc. (Chester); Mike Heinhold (Heinhold); John M. Mario (Mario); Joel E. Parker (Parker); Thomas Guelinas (Guelinas); Jon Meyer (Meyer); Daniel B. Curry (Curry); Eric M. Wojciechowski (Wojciechowski); Michael Gee (Gee); Philip Ryan Turner (Turner); and Carl Zuhl (Zuhl) (collectively, the defendants) on Think Tank's claim for misappropriation of trade secrets. In addition, Think Tank appeals the trial court's determination that its non-solicitation claim was barred. Finding that the trial court did not err in granting a directed verdict and correctly determined that Think Tank's non-solicitation claim was barred, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
[¶2] The relevant facts of this case have been relayed in prior decisions in this case as follows:
Think Tank is engaged in computer-related business activities, including systems and network engineering, problem solving, systems design, implementation, sales, client training, and computer maintenance. As of April 19, 2001, Think Tank employed defendants Mario, Parker, Guelinas, Meyer, Curry, Wojciechowski, Gee, Turner, and Zuhl (collectively, the former employees).
. . . .
During a period ranging from April 20, 2001, to April 19, 2002, all of the former employees left Think Tank for various reasons, shrinking Think Tank's staff from sixteen to nine employees. With the exception of Parker, all of the former employees went directly from Think
Tank to Chester. [Parker worked for another employer for five months before going to work for Chester.] Chester was informed of the covenant not to compete by Curry, Gee, Guelinas, Wojciechowski, and Zuhl. However, Mario, Parker, Meyer, and Turner did not believe they had signed the covenant when they were hired by Think Tank, and Think Tank could not produce the signed agreements. Think Tank's president asserts that each of these four signed the covenant in his presence.
On April 26, 2002, Think Tank filed its " Verified Complaint For Injunctive And Other Relief" against Chester; Chester's manager, Heinhold; and the former employees. Among other things, Think Tank alleged in its complaint that its former employees were violating the covenant not to compete by contacting Think Tank personnel and customers. Think Tank further alleged that Chester, Heinhold, and the former employees were interfering with Think Tank's business by divulging confidential information and trade secrets. Three days later, after an ex parte emergency hearing, a Lake Superior Court granted a temporary restraining order finding that Think Tank had " a protectable interest in its goodwill (which includes all its customer information and relationships as well as its employees) and reputation...." The court further found that " the provisions of [the covenant] provide reasonable and appropriate restrictions on post-employment conduct of [Think Tank's] employees; and that all defendants in concert with one another have either breached the [covenant] or induced or aided the breach...."
On May 1, 2002, the defendants filed for a change of venue, and the Lake Superior Court transferred the case to the Porter Superior Court on May 6, 2002. After a hearing on the defendants' motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order, the trial court ruled on May 10, 2002, that the temporary restraining order was not properly issued because Think Tank failed to give proper notice pursuant to Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 65(B)(2) and failed to post bond pursuant to Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 65(C).
On June 7, 2002, Think Tank filed its " First Amended Verified Complaint For Injunctive And Other Relief." In this amended complaint, Think Tank asserted breach of contract and tort claims against various defendants.
. . .
On December 31, 2009, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment challenging Think Tank's claims. On March 9, 2010, after holding a hearing and reviewing the designated evidence of all parties, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment for the defendants on all of the claims raised by Think Tank in its first amended complaint. In doing so, the trial court concluded that the covenant not to compete in the various employment agreements " is overbroad and is therefore unenforceable ... and cannot be reformed." The court also concluded that " the information alleged to have been misappropriated by [the defendants] does not
constitute a 'trade secret' under the Indiana Trade Secret Act and therefore [Think Tank's] claim for misappropriation fails as a matter of law." The court further concluded as a matter of law that Think Tank's claims for interference with a business relationship, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment " do not apply to the fact situation of this case."
Think Tank Software Dev. Corp. v. Chester, Inc. (Think Tank I), No. 64A03-1003-PL-172, 2011 WL 1362527, *1-3 ...