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Latest CleanFish News
Aug 17, 2020
Judge dismisses most of trade secret suit against CleanFish co-founder, BC mussel farm By Jason Huffman Aug. 17, 2020 21:55 BST Share article Dale Sims, the former co-founder of CleanFish, and Island Sea Farms (ISF), a large British Columbia, Canada-based mussel farming company, have scored a major victory in their defense against charges that they stole trade secrets from the Northern California-based seafood wholesaler. Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, on Friday dismissed four of the five counts included against Sims, his new company Buena Vista Seafood, and ISF in a lawsuit filed back in July 2019, seeking at least $1.5 million. The ruling grants almost all of the requests made by the defendants in their motion to dismiss filing. Sims told Undercurrent News on Monday that he wasn't surprised. "I was confident this would be the outcome all along," said the now 40-year seafood professional. "I didn't do any of the things they said I'd done. " As reported by Undercurrent , Sims started CleanFish, in San Francisco, California, in 2004, with Tim O’Shea, but both men sold off their shares in the business in April 2018 to Sea 2050, a holding company that also owned Boston, Massachusetts-based Wulf's Fish. More than a year later, in late May 2019, Sims then resigned his position as chief fishmonger at CleanFish over what he said were unspecified “differences of opinion” with the new management team. Credit: Pineapple studio/Shutterstock It was at about that time, CleanFish alleged in its 17-page complaint, that Sims “embarked in a concerted effort, together with at least one of the plaintiff’s suppliers”, Island Sea Farms, to build his new business off of the list of customers and suppliers now owned by his former enterprise as well as its purchasing data, sales figures and other analysis. This despite having signed a confidentiality agreement as part of a larger contract, they alleged. The lawsuit also named, as defendants, Paul Simpson and Nanci Dixon, the owner and an employee respectively at Island Sea Farms, the producer of Saltspring Island mussels, one of the best-known brands of mussels sold on the west coast of North America. The complaint had alleged that the mussels were relied upon by CleanFish for $1.5m annually in sales. The court action was one of several recently in which former seafood company professionals were charged with the theft of trade secrets. Though Sims told Undercurrent in an email last year that “the charges are completely spurious, baseless and appear to be an attempt to put me out of business”. Gilliam, in his opinion, agreed that CleanFish failed to make its case for several of the counts. For starters, the company “failed to identify a trade secret with sufficient particularity…,” the judge said. “Plaintiff contends, at length, that confidential customer information can constitute a trade secret,” Gilliam wrote. “But customer information does not by itself categorically qualify as a trade secret. … The court finds that the broad description of these purported ‘trade secrets’ is indistinguishable from matters of general knowledge within the parties’ industry (i.e., the seafood distribution business), such that plaintiff has not met its burden to identify protectable trade secrets.” The judge also ruled that CleanFish failed to plead the existence of an actual trade secret, that Sims used “improper means” or that he breached his fiduciary duty. Sims’ attorney, in arguing against a temporary restraining order unsuccessfully sought by CleanFish against Sims, had argued that the company's supplier list was available on its website and it regularly introduced suppliers to customers. The lawsuit is not yet 100% dismissed, however, and Sims filed a counterclaim against CleanFish in July 2019 that remains active. The CleanFish co-founder charged that he was orally promised 5% ownership in the new company and said he was libeled by CleanFish's new executive team in comments made to others in the seafood industry. Gilliam has scheduled a case management conference for Sept. 1 to discuss scheduling future hearings, though attorneys for both sides are expected to meet on Aug. 25 to discuss a potential resolution to the case. The one count remaining in the lawsuit is “breach of contract”, though Sims remains unfazed by the charge. He said he signed his employment agreement with the company that the new owners acquired and dissolved as part of their transition. "This is a favorable outcome for Island Sea Farms, its owner Paul Simpson, Buena Vista Seafood LLC and Dale Sims," said an email Sims sent to Undercurrent. "While there is still one remaining issue, given that Mr. Sims never signed a contract with CleanFish LLC, we are confident in the outcome." While Sims continues to work to get past the lawsuit from his former company that has distracted him for more than a year, he told Undercurrent on Monday that his new company is doing well. As expected, Buena Vista has made three hires and, following a down period resulting from the pandemic, Sims said he now is offering about a dozen products -- including Saltspring mussels -- and sales made in July 2020 were better than those made in July 2019, a month after the launch. CleanFish CEO Mike Moniz declined to address the court decision when contacted for a response. "During these unprecedented times, we are focused on continued growth and ensuring the health, safety, and financial well-being of our employees, suppliers, and customers. COVID-19 has provided a tremendous opportunity for those well-positioned to pivot from the antiqued methods of operating," he told Undercurrent in an email. "We are excited about the future for both organizations under the Sea2050, LLC umbrella: CleanFish and Wulf's Fish." d indicates our daily newsletters |2w indicates twice-weekly |All others sent weekly All briefings are sent weekly, unless otherwise indicated Region People moves Product updates Offers
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CleanFish Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When was CleanFish founded?
CleanFish was founded in 2004.
Where is CleanFish's headquarters?
CleanFish's headquarters is located at 42 Decatur Street, San Francisco.
What is CleanFish's latest funding round?
CleanFish's latest funding round is Unattributed VC - II.
How much did CleanFish raise?
CleanFish raised a total of $9.5M.
Who are the investors of CleanFish?
Investors of CleanFish include Preserve Capital Group and TBL Capital.
Who are CleanFish's competitors?
Competitors of CleanFish include Stonyfield.
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Stonyfield Farm is a large global organic yogurt company. Its all natural and certified organic yogurt, smoothies, milk, cultured soy, frozen yogurt and ice cream are distributed nationally within the United States. The company advocates that healthy food can only come from a healthy planet. Per Stonyfield, its organic ingredient purchases keep over 60,000 farm acres free of toxic, persistent pesticides and chemical fertilizers that can contaminate soil, rivers and drinking water. To help address climate change, Stonyfield offsets all of the C02 emissions generated from its facility energy use. The company also started a nonprofit called Climate Counts (climatecounts.org) which shows people how they can help fight climate change by the way they shop and invest. Stonyfield also donates 10% of its profits to efforts that help protect and restore the Earth.
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