Judge Upholds Poaching Claims in Pharmaceutical Data Antitrust Case

By on August 22, 2014

On Friday, August 15, 2014, Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania let stand several counterclaims that IMS Health Inc. (IMS) made against Symphony Health Solutions Corp. (Symphony) in connection with related to allegations that Symphony had poached IMS employees to steal trade secrets.

In July 2013, Symphony brought a complaint against IMS, the largest pharmaceutical data and analytics company in the world, alleging that IMS unlawfully abused its monopoly power in pharmaceutical data markets and violated the antitrust laws through various types of horizontal and vertical exclusionary conduct, including entering into exclusive long-term agreements with data suppliers, requiring data suppliers to sign most-favored-nation clauses, acquiring rivals to eliminate competition, and bundling its products.  In response to the complaint, IMS filed multiple counterclaims alleging that Symphony poached IMS employees to steal IMS’s trade secrets. Symphony then filed a motion to dismiss IMS’s counterclaims.

After reviewing Symphony’s motion to dismiss, Judge McHugh dismissed IMS’s trade secret misappropriation claims as to two former IMS employees as barred by res judicata.  Specifically, a prior consent order already addressed concerns that Symphony gained access to IMS’s trade secrets through the two former IMS employees.  Judge McHugh also dismissed IMS’s claim of tortious interference regarding a vendor because IMS’s “prediction” of future harm could not sustain its claim.

However, Judge McHugh let IMS’s poaching claims go forward and refused to dismiss IMS’s claims of improper procurement of confidential information and unfair competition.  As to improper procurement, Judge McHugh highlighted IMS’s allegation that its former employee hired by Symphony made a public presentation with IMS materials.  With respect to unfair competition, Judge McHugh ruled that IMS had stated facts sufficient to support its claim when it alleged that “Symphony targeted for hire groups of employees who worked in parts of IMS’s business that Symphony wished to duplicate, with the purpose of appropriating IMS’s trade secrets.”

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