Hewlett-Packard Co was sued on Wednesday by a New Jersey company that accused it of stealing and using its trade secrets to make replacement laser printer cartridges, and threatening its survival.
In its complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, Turbon International Inc alleged that Hewlett-Packard had promised in December 2008 to give it lucrative contracts to manufacture replacement cartridges, and later awarded it some contracts.
But the world's largest maker of personal computers and printers shelved these plans in January 2010, after Turbon had methodically disclosed every intricate detail of its business, the complaint said.
Turbon said Hewlett-Packard gained a unique understanding of the importance of the availability of empty printer cartridges to its business, and further damaged it by pushing customers to instead recycle their cartridges.
Hewlett-Packard has sought to effectively crush Turbon, the complaint said. Turbon's business is in peril and any further actions by Hewlett-Packard to use or disclose Turbon's confidential trade secret information would be fatal for Turbon and the remanufacturing industry as a whole.
Turbon is based in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia. According to its website, it is a unit of Germany's Turbon AG , whose sales totaled 85.9 million euros ($102.9 million) in 2009.
The lawsuit seeks damages for fraudulent inducement, misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition, a ban on the use of improperly obtained secrets, and other remedies.
Hewlett-Packard is based in Palo Alto, California, and did not immediately return requests for comment. A lawyer for Turbon declined to elaborate on the complaint, including on the potential damages sought.
Shares of Hewlett-Packard closed Wednesday down 47 cents at $45.41 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The case is Turbon International Inc v. Hewlett-Packard Co, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-04540.
(1 euro = US$1.198)
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)