WA Legal Roundup: Division I
Petters v. Williamson & Assoc., Inc.
Richard Petters was a design engineer who specialized in underwater engineering. In the early 1980s, Mr. Petters worked with Williamson to design and market a remotely operated, deep-ocean rock coring drill. Around 1992, Mr. Petters began adapting land-based drilling technologies for that purpose. When a Japanese company expressed interest in the drilling technology, Petters prepared a successful bid on Williamson’s behalf. After the contract between Williamson and the Japanese company was agreed to, Mr. Petters and Williamson disagreed about the amount of compensation due to Mr. Petters. Mr. Petters stopped working for Williamson. Mr. Petterson sued Williamson alleging misappropriation of trade secrets that were partially owned by Mr. Petters.
Following a bench trial, the trial court ruled that Williamson had misappropriated Mr. Petters’ trade secrets. While the trial court held that Mr. Petters had not proved any actual loss, it did enjoin further misappropriation. The Court of Appeals previously affirmed the trial court’s order. Another bench trial was held.
In the interim, what was once a trade secret ceased to be one. Through a host of procedural pirouettes, the parties found themselves again before the Court of Appeals, who affirmed the trial court holding that substantial evidence supported the trial court's findings.