Monsanto Files Injunctive Lawsuit to Protect Trade Secrets

Dr. Warren Kruger allegedly signed a contract with Monsanto Company when he was hired agreeing that since he would learn confidential information about Monsanto’s agricultural business he would keep the information confidential and, in exchange for continued pay, he would not join a competing business until a year after his employment with Monsanto ended. Kruger, however, allegedly began working at Syngenta, Inc. one week after quitting his position.

Monsanto filed a complaint requesting injunctive relief in the Eastern District of Missouri on Thursday asking for the court to rule that Kruger’s actions were a breach of his contract and to stop the defendant from sharing any trade secrets with his new employer.  The plaintiff, represented by Thompson Coburn, sought in its complaint, among other things, “temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief.”

Dr. Kruger was Monsanto’s Head of Precision Genomics. He allegedly denied that he was considering leaving his job and taking a position at Syngenta on June 26, 2020, but one day later notified the company he was resigning immediately and taking a position at Syngenta. 

The complaint states, the “plaintiff is entitled to specific performance of Dr. Kruger’s promises in the Monsanto Employment Agreement as well as the other relief specified herein.  As noted, Plaintiff is so concerned about the irreparable harm that Dr. Kruger would cause by breaching his promises to it that it will continue to pay him during the one-year non-competition period, as specified in the Monsanto Employment Agreement.” 

Monsanto claimed that it has developed a competitive advantage from investing in crop research, specifically in developing methods to increase yields. The company does virtual field trials and has “proprietary scientifically-derived algorithms” which help it determine which crops will be successful and develop better crops at lower costs. Monsanto claims it has spent about $3 million daily on researching and developing. The defendant was allegedly aware of these trade secrets and is now working for one of Monsanto’s biggest competitors. 

The company alleged that the defendant’s knowledge of its trade secrets would be useful in jumpstarting programs in Syngenta that Monsanto already has, like the virtual field trial program, and help the competitor with obtaining plant data, gene editing, and optimization of speed and cost for breeding. The complaint accused Kruger of breaching his employment contract and violating state and national trade secrets laws.