An Oregon livestock nutrition company wants a former employee cited for contempt for violating an injunction in a lawsuit over the alleged theft of trade secrets.
Omnigen Research, which manufacturers a treatment for hemorrhagic bowel syndrome in cattle, has already won a lawsuit against the ex-employee, Wongqiang Wang, and been awarded $3.85 million in damages.
However, the company is asking a federal judge to sanction Wang for allegedly continuing his involvement with a Chinese company that’s reproduced Omnigen’s product in that country.
Wang is also accused of failing to turn over all his computers and other electronic media for Omnigen to review for confidential information and disregarding an order to re-assign a Chinese patent to his former employer.
“They’ve lied so many times they just can’t keep their story straight,” said Scott Davis, an attorney for Omnigen, during a June 19 hearing on the matter in Portland.
Omnigen was originally founded in Corvallis, Ore., by an Oregon State University professor, but was later sold to the Phibro animal health company.
In its motion for a finding of contempt, Omnigen asked U.S. District Judge Michael McShane to order the defendant incarcerated for civil contempt if he doesn’t comply with the earlier injunction and fines don’t work.
However, Wang did not appear at the June 19 hearing and his attorney, Roger Hennagin, said his client’s Chinese passport is revoked and he cannot leave that country.
Hennagin also asked to withdraw as Wang’s attorney, saying he hasn’t seen his client face-to-face since last year and is having trouble communicating about the case through email.
Davis, Omnigen’s attorney, said he was under the impression Wang was a legal permanent resident and could return to the U.S., so the situation is “all news to us and a surprise.”
Despite the injunction, Wang is deeply involved with Mirigen, a Chinese company that cloned Omnigen’s secret formula, he said. It’s implausible that he’s turned over all his electronic devices, as evidences by email communications.
Hennigan countered that Wang is using a computer at a university library in China.
“Much of their position is based on supposition, hypothesis and inferences,” he said.
Omnigen also asked for sanctions against Wang and his attorney for violating a protective order by viewing “attorneys eyes only” documents during the litigation, which began in 2016.
Hennagin acknowledged providing his client with access to these protected documents, citing his lack of technological expertise and his desire to save money for his client by not spending time separating them out from other documents.
“It was not a bad faith mistake,” he said, noting that he instructed Wang not to look at the protected files.
McShane took Omnigen’s requests under advisement but warned the company that potential relief was limited under the circumstances.
“I hope your client understands I can’t grant you police powers to seize things,” he said.