Oshkosh Corp. sues former Chinese employee and competitor for trade secrets

By Miles Maguire

Oshkosh Corp. brought a complaint against a former employee and a major Chinese competitor, accusing them of compromising confidential information and trade secrets on a “whole new generation” of products from its subsidiary JLG Industries.

The lawsuit names McKenzie Ditty, a mechanical engineer who lived for two years in Tianjin, China, and Sany America, whose parent company, based in Hunan province, ranks as the fourth-largest maker of mechanical equipment. construction in the world with $ 14.4 billion in sales in 2020.

The engineer has filed or obtained several patents according to an online database. He was lured from JLG to Sany in September with a “50% pay rise,” Oshkosh said in his lawsuit, filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court.

“Ditty may have taken or kept confidential information and trade secrets from JLG after leaving the company, without immediately handing them over or returning them to the company,” Oshkosh said. “Also, before leaving JLG, Ditty wiped her company-issued cell phone before returning it.”

Oshkosh is concerned about confidential information relating to a new line of aerial work platforms that JLG is working on. The new generation of elevators “will feature entirely new products, with entirely new technology and with more environmentally friendly operation”.

A boom lift, also known as a boom lift, is “a piece of equipment with a hydraulic boom and a platform at the end for raising and lowering people,” according to the JLG website.

“Ditty has been intimately involved in and helped design and develop the next generation of JLG’s aerial work platform product line and has extensive knowledge of new products, new technologies and other confidential information and trade secrets. relating to it, “Oshkosh said.

Access to this information has been “extremely limited,” but Ditty’s new job “will inevitably require her to use or disclose” her insider knowledge, Oshkosh said.

JLG is Oshkosh’s largest segment and generates most of its profit, including nearly $ 250 million in operating profit in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Oshkosh Defense, although it has a higher profit margin, reported operating profit of just $ 198 million for the fiscal year.

China is a critical market for Oshkosh and especially for JLG.

“The access equipment segment in China has slowed down a bit as the Chinese economy has slowed down a bit, but it is still a very robust market and one of the largest – it will be one of the most major markets in the world, ”said John C, CEO of Oshkosh. Pfeifer said in a conference call with stock analysts on Oct. 28.

Oshkosh is not alone among American companies concerned about the loss of intellectual property to Chinese competitors.

Former President Trump started the trade war with China in part over concerns over the loss of intellectual property. His administration said in 2018 that the underpayment or outright theft of intellectual property costs US businesses at least $ 50 billion a year.

Oshkosh is seeking a court order that would prevent Sany from “misappropriating or threatening to misappropriate JLG’s trade secrets.” The lawsuit also requests that pecuniary damages be assessed against Ditty and Sany “in an amount to be determined at trial”.

Neither party responded to invitations to comment.

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