Burt Hill, Inc. is a Pennsylvania corporation with offices in Pittsburgh, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. On September 21, 2009, Burt Hill filed suit against seven employees of Burt Hill for several causes of action including unfair competition, trademark infringement, and misappropriation of trade secrets. (Burt Hill, Inc. v. Hassan et al Case No. 2:2009cv01285.)
According to the Complaint, “Burt Hill provides architecture and engineering services, including interior design, landscape architecture, sustainable design, project management, and master planning services.”
Burt Hill owns U.S. Trademark Registration Number 3,201,245 for the mark BURT HILL, which registered on January 23, 2007. Burt Hill alleges that the mark is well-known in the architecture, engineering services, and construction industries and that Burt Hill has built significant goodwill through the use of its mark. The Complaint also alleges that Burt Hill has trade secrets and confidential and proprietary information regarding its business and customers that provide Burt Hill with a competitive advantage in its business.
In 2005, Burt Hill decided to expand by opening branch offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Each of the defendants were entrusted employees of Burt Hill for several years in the Butler, Pennsylvania office. They were reassigned to the Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices where they held managerial positions.
From 2005 until 2009 the Dubai office grew very rapidly, which raised concerns for Burt Hill about the business practices of the Dubai office. Burt Hill alleges, “the business practices of the offices, especially the inefficient hiring and uncontrolled staff size, wasteful project and business management, high overhead, and large accounts receivable” were not consistent with Burt Hill’s standard business practice or corporate policies.
Burt Hill states that in March of 2009, the defendants made it known to Burt Hill that they wanted Burt Hill to give them the Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices, and if Burt Hill would not hand the offices over, they would take them themselves. Burt Hill alleges that the defendants “entered into a scheme … to divert Burt Hill’s projects, assets, and employees to a separate covert operation owned and controlled by defendants” and to do this, the defendants “used substantial resources of Burt Hill including its money, employees, trade secrets, intellectual property, and proprietary and confidential information.”
Defendants also “began marketing for BH Global rather than Burt Hill.” Defendants then “represented to current and prospective Burt Hill clients or marketing affiliates that BH Global was affiliated with Burt Hill.”
An Answer to the Complaint has not yet been filed. The Answer is due October 14, 2009.
– Katie Cooper