Several weeks ago, in federal court, Cisco sued three former employees – James He, Wilson Chung, and Jedd Williams – for trade secret misappropriation. At the time, we believed they had acted individually, and therefore did not name their subsequent employer in the litigation. Today, based on new information, we have amended our action to name Poly, who hired the three individuals, and a Poly Executive Vice President, Thomas Puorro, who is also a former Cisco employee and who was instrumental in orchestrating an effort to bring Cisco trade secrets and other confidential information to Poly.
This blog is to explain why we brought this action and what we hope to achieve. I cannot emphasize enough that we did not want to bring this litigation. We worked hard to have the issues addressed directly by Poly. Poly is a competitor in the collaboration space, and we are focused on innovating in the market, not litigating in the courts. This litigation is not about Poly products. It’s about Poly’s refusal to address a serious cultural issue, characterized by repeated efforts to receive and use Cisco trade secrets and confidential information in their business.
Before filing the original suit, I contacted Poly’s General Counsel, and met with her, as did Cisco’s Vice President of Litigation, to provide background information about Mr. He and Dr. Chung. Poly terminated Mr. He and initially suspended Dr. Chung. These were important steps, and encouraged us to believe that Poly took the issue seriously. The allegations against Dr. Chung are well-documented and very important, including that he began employment at Poly before his employment at Cisco had ended, and used his continuing access to Cisco’s network to transfer information directly to Poly. Here is an excerpt from our complaint laying out in detail, and with reference to hard evidence, what Dr. Chung did.
Then something went very wrong with Poly’s response.
- Chung was reinstated to his senior role. Poly refused to address directly the very clear evidence of his malfeasance.
- Puorro, who apparently also recruited Dr. Chung to join Poly, repeatedly solicited confidential information from Mr. Williams during the months Mr. Williams was seeking employment at Poly. The excerpt from our complaint documenting Mr. Puorro’s efforts and the types of information he sought and received from Mr. Williams is here. Information was also shared with other senior Poly executives.
- Poly’s General Counsel, apparently believing the best defense is a good offense, rather than responding to try to resolve the issues, chose instead to make vague accusations against a former Poly employee now at Cisco, claiming that the individual accessed Poly confidential information before leaving for Cisco. We hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation, which found no evidence that confidential information was ever downloaded to any personal device, or ever removed from Poly, and no sign of any Poly confidential information on any Cisco device; Poly did not challenge these findings.
After we filed our complaint against the individuals, Poly continued to stonewall. Poly stood behind Dr. Chung even after learning that he deleted evidence to cover up his misconduct, and refused to compel Mr. Williams to return any Cisco materials that he had retained or permit inspection of devices on which he had stored Cisco information. Poly’s General Counsel, in addition to threatening to harm the reputation and career of the former Poly employee, told us, perhaps without reviewing the evidence, that Mr. Williams had been wrongly accused and that Mr. Puorro was “pure as the driven snow”.
At this time, we have elected not to include others at Poly who were in contact with Cisco employees and may have received or induced others to provide Cisco’s confidential information. We have asked Poly to preserve any relevant information, given clear evidence, as documented in our complaint, that executive-level efforts were undertaken to avoid detection of receipt of confidential information.
The next move is up to Poly: whether they will choose to stonewall and defend, or take active steps to root out the rot that has infiltrated their company.