RRK Holding Co. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 04 C 3944, Slip Op (N.D. Ill. May 27, 2007) (Coar, J.).
Judge Coar denied defendant Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s ("Sears") Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law and Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a) motion for a new trial or a remittitur. And the Court granted plaintiff RRK Holding Co.’s ("RRK") motion for pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. A jury previously returned a verdict finding Sears liable for breach of a nondisclosure agreement and misappropriation of RRK’s trade secret related to its spiral saw – click here for much more on this case in the Blog’s archives. The jury awarded RRK approximately $21M, including $11.6M in actual damages, $1.6M for unjust enrichment and $8M in punitive damages.
First, Sears argued that RRK offered insufficient evidence showing that Sears’ alleged misappropriation caused RRK’s damages. But the Court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The fact that Sears’s price for its spiral saw was lower than RRK’s explained why customers purchased Sears’s saws over RRK’s, but the trade secret causation was shown by the fact that Sears sold the combination tool instead of selling the components separately.
Second, Sears argued that RRK’s damages should be limited to the traditional “head start” period (an estimate of the time it would take for defendant to develop the trade secret on its own). But the Court held that Illinois law limits injunctive relief to a head start period, but not monetary relief.
Third, the Court held that RRK’s damages expert was sufficiently credible and held that Sears had sufficient opportunity to challenge the expert’s methodologies during cross examination.
Fourth, Sears argued that the jury’s award was in error because it awarded damages based on the entire sales price of the spiral saws, instead of apportioning just that portion of the sales price related to RRK’s trade secrets. But the Court held that a rational jury could have determined that the reason the spiral saw was a success was because of the trade secret and that, therefore, apportionment was not required.
Fifth, Sears argued that RRK’s lost profits damages should have been cut-off when third party competitor Dremel entered the market with a competing spiral saw. But the Court held that it was unclear whether Dremel’s tool was similar enough to RRK’s trade secret to be a substitute for it.
The Court also held that the jury’s award was not excessive. But the Court did find that the jury erred in by using the wrong figure from RRK’s expert for actual lost profits. RRK also conceded that the jury used the wrong number. The Court, therefore, reduced the jury’s actual damages award from $11.6M (the incorrect figure) to $11.2M (the correct figure).
Finally, the Court awarded RRK both pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. Pre-judgment interest, which is awarded on equitable grounds, was appropriate because of the intentional nature of trade secret misappropriation. Additionally, the Court held that pre-judgment interest was appropriate even though RRK was also awarded punitive damages. The Court did, however, suggest that had the punitive damages award been multiples of the actual damages, pre-judgment interest might not have been appropriate. Sears did not challenge RRK’s motion for post-judgment interest.
The Court added $3.7M in pre-judgment interest to the $21M award and assessed post-judgment interest of $1,931.50 per day until the award was paid.