A trade secret fight has broken out among rival food companies. Mars, Inc. contends that a former executive downloaded several thousand files containing trade secrets and confidential business information shortly before switching sides to work for JAB Holding Company, LLC and its subsidiary Pret Panera Holding Company, Inc.

The former executive is not Mars’s only target. It also squarely points the finger at JAB and Pret Panera. Mars alleges that JAB and Pret Panera tried to conceal the former executives misdeeds and that it “is disturbing that no one at JAB or Pret Panera sounded the alarm when presented with stolen Mars documents.” Mars goes on to allege that the former executive’s “new colleagues instead appear to have accepted the stolen confidential Mars materials without question.”

In recent public statements, JAB and Pret Panera have denied any wrongdoing, contending that the lawsuit is “completely without merit” and pointing to an internal investigation conducted by outside counsel.

The lawsuit, which is pending in federal district court in Washington, DC., will likely be contentious and generate potentially significant rulings. We will continue monitor the case and provide timely updates.