Pfizer Sues After Alleged Trade Secrets Theft

On Tuesday a case was filed in the Southern District of California by Pfizer Inc. against Chun Xiao Li, a former employee. The case is regarding theft of trade secrets by a former employee.

Li, the complaint said, was employed as Associate Director of Statistics in drugmaker Pfizer’s Global Product Development group in La Jolla, California. As a part of this role, Li had access to confidential trade secret information, specifically regarding the evaluation of possible drugs for efficiency and safety in human clinical trials prior to submission of information to the FDA for approval.

As a part of her employment, the plaintiff indicates that the defendant was required to sign a confidentiality agreement, as well as numerous staff trainings regarding the handling of trade secrets and agreements not to disclose this information.

The complaint went on to explain that, as part of Pfizer’s internal security regarding trade secrets, the company employs computer forensics specialists to track the use of information, employee activity on company devices, and alert for suspicious activity. Pfizer claims that one of these alerts showed that Li had transferred over 12,000 files to a Google Drive account and a review of her employee email showed a job offer from a competitor.

After being confronted by the forensics team, the plaintiff accuses the defendant of having deleted the files from the Google storage account, but not before transferring them to another computer. Upon demand of the plaintiff, the defendant produced her personal computer, but this machine did not match the download path from the Google Drive. On the other hand, the complaint said, the personal computer did show evidence of other Pfizer files that had been deleted prior to turning over the personal computer.

The plaintiff is suing for federal and state trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, conversion, and trespass to chattels. The plaintiff is represented by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.