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Jury awards $22.7 million to Relco in trade secret suit

WILLMAR — A Kandiyohi County jury awarded Relco LLC, of Willmar, a total of $22.78 million, finding that two former employees took trade secrets from the dairy and food processing equipment company and used the information at a competitive Wisconsin company.

In a verdict returned Oct. 25 after a two-week trial before District Judge Michael J. Thompson, the jury found that former Relco employees Roger Ochsner and Troy Gascoigne and the company they went to work for, Cheese Systems Inc. and Custom Fabricating and Repair, of Marshfield, Wis., took and used Relco’s trade secrets for equipment to concentrate and dry dairy permeate and lactose to compete with the Willmar-based company.

The jury also found that Ochsner and Gascoigne breached their non-compete contracts with Relco by taking confidential computer files and that Cheese Systems and Custom Fabricating interfered with Relco’s current or prospective contracts with customers.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2011 and contended that Ochsner gathered confidential and intellectual property, designs for such dairy drying equipment, from Relco’s computer systems and took the information with him to Cheese Systems when he and Gascoigne went to work for the Wisconsin company in January 2010.