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Garbage find sparks Ebos fight with Aussie rival, ex-employee

Friday 2nd March 2012

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Medical equipment distributer Ebos Group has won access to Team Medical Supplies’ books after using “covert surveillance” to find its own confidential files in the trash of an ex-employee who now sits on the Australian rival’s board.

The Spy vs. Spy details emerged in a judgement last month in Sydney. In the Federal Court, Justice Anna Katzmann ordered Team Medical Supplies and director Marijke Vriens to hand over a series of documents to Ebos. The documents will help Ebos decide whether to pursue legal action against its new rival.

The judgment was published this week on court’s database.

Ebos used surveillance on Vriens and her brother Pieter after Team Medical entered the market in May last year with a handful of former Ebos staff in tow. Pieter Vriens sold another company, Vital Medical Supplies, to Ebos in 2007, according to the judgment.

Team Medical nabbed 10 of Ebos’s former employees, including Vriens, most of whom had signed contracts with Ebos banning them from sharing its confidential information.

The surveillance turned up client lists in Marijke Vriens’s rubbish, showing “all but a small number of the Team Medical customers were also current customers” of Ebos.

“I accept the applicants’ submission that the fact Ms Vriens took some Ebos confidential information heightens the apprehension that she may well have taken some or all of the customer databases,” Justice Katzmann said.

Vriens didn’t offer any innocent explanation for the information she had, nor why some Ebos documents turned up in her trash, the judge said.

“The documents found in Ms Vriens’s rubbish bin and the documents and DVD she produced to the court to indicate that she retained confidential Ebos information” after she left its employment “for no authorised purpose.”

Ebos general manager Anthony Norris said in an affidavit “he believed that Team Medical engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by leading customers to believe that the Team business was in some way connected or associated with Ebos,” and that conduct “has caused and will continue to cause the applicants irreparable harm.”

Ebos contended Team Medical, a rival medical supplies business in Sydney, has been built using confidential information taken by ex-marketing manager Vriens. It wants to pursue legal action, but claimed it didn’t have enough information to proceed.

The judge accepted Ebos still didn’t have sufficient information and made a preliminary discovery order for some, but not all, of the documents requested.

Justice Katzmann said costs will lie with Team Medical if Ebos launches substantial proceedings within 60 days of receiving the documents, or vice versa if it does not.

Ebos chief financial officer Dennis Doherty wasn’t immediately available to comment.

BusinessDesk.co.nz

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