A man employed by Mayer’s Turku Shipyard retired and founded his own company. Then it began to appear what he was doing, without anyone noticing.
On July 10, 2018, a former project engineer from Turku’s Mayor Shipyard published a picture on Facebook showing his desk. There was a computer on it.
There was nothing strange in the picture to outsiders, but it attracted the attention of former colleagues: a document was visible on the computer screen, which should not have been in the person’s possession.
In October of that year, police seized the former employee’s computer.
Now Meyer Turku Oy and its German parent company Meyer Werf GmbH & Co KG are seeking millions of euros in compensation from the former employee’s company and assets in the district court of Varsinais-Finland. Offenses include copyright infringement, infringement of trade secrets, and corporate espionage.
The former employee who died last year had been employed at Mayer’s Turku shipyard since 1979. He announced that he would be retiring at the end of 2017. However, from February to June 2018, he operated under the business name of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited (RCCL), one of Mayer’s main clients.
The respondent established his own marine consultancy company in April 2018 while working in RCCL. The respondent’s new company entered into an agreement with a Chinese shipyard company in June 2018.
For his work, the defendant had access to Mayer’s network drive, which was secure from outside parties, and the Chronodoc file management program, and he copied large numbers of files for himself. The exact number of documents is hidden in the proceedings of the district court. The files contained technical drawings, calculations and diagrams, among other things.
Defendant copied the files on 1.7. and 31 December 2017. He copied a significant number of them, especially in December, just before his retirement. He should have returned the computer before his vacation, which he took in December, but he did not return it until early January 2018 after several requests from his predecessor.
The files were also copied between February and June 2018, when the defendant had access to Chronodock while employed by RCCL.
When defendant heard that the companies knew he still had files containing trade secrets, he sent Mayer an e-mail threatening to “do anything he could.” The next day, the mayor requested an investigation.
What is indisputable is that the former employee copied the files. The lawsuit is about how much secret information those copied documents contained.
According to Mayer, approximately 80 percent of the files were copied from folders intended to store highly confidential information. Only 0.2 percent of the files copied were public documents.
Folders named “CMHI”, “CMHI” and “Given to CMHI” were found on the defendant’s external hard drive, suggesting that the files had already been given to a Chinese shipyard company (CMHI). The shipyard company had made nine bank transfers to the defendant’s company account with a total value of approximately 250,000 euros.
Only a few shipyards in the world can build luxury cruisers. At the end of the last decade, the Chinese government announced that it was looking to expand its shipyard and shipbuilding activities, and aimed to develop a shipyard in China that would build luxury cruise ships. They do not have the same know-how about building cruise ships as the major shipyards in Europe. So the material concerned is indeed a relevant competitive factor, defined Markus Blomfeldt, the lawyer representing Mayer.
The former personnel department’s job was to design prototypes of ships and sell them to customer shipping companies. The same department also did the preliminary planning for the ships. According to Mayer, the value of the copied material is actually 460 million euros.
Mayer is seeking five million euros including default interest from the defendant’s former company and assets and 95,000 euros as compensation according to the Trade Secrets Act and the Copyright Act or, alternatively, the return of an undue interest.
The claims are directed in their entirety to the company owned by the defendant at the time, and for 365,000 Euros, the estate of the defendant is jointly and severally liable.
Of this, the defense grant is 550,000 Euros, of which the company share is 400,000 Euros and the property share is 150,000 Euros. The compensation portion is assumed to be quantitatively correct.
Defense attorney Lotta Kronold criticized the continuity of the entire trial. According to him, he has offered several compromises in the matter, which have not been accepted.
– The demands are completely absurd, as is the case as a whole. Apart from the seized EUR 84,000, the (defendant’s) company has no assets. The lawsuit has no reasonable basis, and it creates completely unnecessary legal costs, he said.
The proceedings of the case will continue for several days and will take place partly behind closed doors.