Aldi Sues Upstart Grocery Chain Over Trade Secrets

By on March 29, 2019

March 29, 2019

Aldi, a rapidly growing national retail grocery chain, has filed a trade secret lawsuit against a competitor that is trying to make inroads with a similar modus operandi. Competitor Lidl is a new-comer to the U.S, with only about 50 stores, although it’s a powerhouse in Europe, where it has thousands of outlets. Lidl is said to be similar to Aldi in some respects, including its discount pricing, and like Aldi the company is based in Germany. The proprietary information that Aldi alleges was taken pertained to a highly sensitive subject in the cutthroat retail grocery business: real estate and planned siting of new stores. In its complaint, as reported in the consumer magazine Coupons in the News, Aldi maintains that Lidl “has struggled in the U.S., in part because of its ill-conceived real estate strategy.” The article provides some interesting details regarding that allegation, quoting from what it calls “a searing report” in a German business magazine. Lidl – in contrast to Aldi, which is known for its fine-grained market research – was said to be choosing sites on the basis of whatever was available as long as the road looked busy, with executives back in Germany checking out the options on Google maps. The lawsuit, ALDI Inc. v. Maraccini, names two employees who are alleged to have misappropriated confidential information. One of them, Bruna Maraccini, was an 11-year Aldi employee whose job before leaving the company for Lidl was director of Aldi real estate for North Carolina. Further details on the legal basis for the lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina, are reported in the trade magazine Supermarket News. Aldi, it says, alleges that Maraccini “went to work for Lidl in violation of her non-compete agreement; took confidential, proprietary and/or trade secret information from Aldi — including real estate strategy maps and planned store locations — that she had agreed to return upon leaving the company…” The second employee named in the lawsuit is accused of misappropriating Aldi trade information, sending it to Maraccini, and then accepting a job offer from Lidl.

 

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