Louis Vuitton North America Inc. (LVNA) has claimed an early victory in its pending lawsuit against an ex-VP Joon Ma and NYC-based brand Coach. In its lawsuit, which was filed in early May in New York State Supreme Court, Louis Vuitton North America alleges that Ma, who served as LV’s Vice President of Canada and Bermuda until she resigned on April 4, 2014, breached her Confidentiality, Non-Solicitation and Non-Competition Agreement by jumping ship to Coach and taking confidential LVNA information with her, much of which she downloaded just days before her departure. Specifically, LVNA claims Ma copied files from her work laptop onto two external hard drives and three USB drives, then deleted a series of files and emails to hide her tracks, all within the last 24 hours of her employment with the company.
Due to the highly confidential nature of the information that Ma "transferred from her LVNA laptop computer to several external storage devices" and took with her to Coach, LVNA's legal team filed for a preliminary injunction, asking the court to order Ma to return all information that she purportedly stole, which extends beyond LVNA operations to those of Louis Vuitton and even LVMH (Louis Vuitton's parent company, which also owns an array of other brands, including Dior, Givenchy, Celine, and Marc Jacobs, among many others) as a whole.
Oral arguments regarding the preliminary injunction were held late last month, with LVNA's counsel, Thomas P. Lane of Winston Strawn LLP, arguing that Ma’s conduct was "particularly egregious." In addition to voicing disbelief when Ma claimed that the only files she deleted from her computer were personal in nature and that she had thrown away the external storage devices in question, he told Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich: “This is one of the most extreme examples of executive misconduct that I have known." He further asserted that in the final months of Ma's employment with LVNA, she was given confidential information about the company, including its plans for months down the road, new products and window designs.
Peter Altieri of Epstein Becker & Green PC, one of the attorneys representing Ma and Coach, claims that Ma's behavior is not out of the ordinary: “This isn’t a situation where she went into their computer system and tried to find their proprietary information. She was working on her own computer, and she cleaned it up.”
Not surprisingly, Judge Kornreich granted LVNA's preliminary injunction request, stating: "Given what happened here, it belies belief that she didn’t take nonpublic information." Kornreich has ordered Ma to return all information about Louis Vuitton’s operations that she lifted from the company and has also ordered that Ma be held to the terms of her noncompete agreement with LVNA, which bars her working for a competitor of the luxury design house in the U.S. for a period of six months. Coach, where Ma began working on April 28 (after resigning from LVNA on April 4), has been deemed to be a competitor. More to come …