Starwood Hotels, owners of the W Hotel brand of boutique hotels, filed a lawsuit against Hilton Hotels and several former Starwood executives hired by Hilton. The lawsuit alleges trade secret infringement.
The complaint alleges that Hilton lured key W Hotel executives and that these individuals misappropriated W Hotel trade secrets to help Hilton with the launch of its Denizen brand of boutique hotels. The trade secrets listed in the complaint include:
- Proprietary marketing and demographic studies that cost more than $1,000,000 to develop.
- Training and operational materials.
- The names of designers, property owners and developers.
- Guidelines for how to create the “Ultimate W Experience’ in converted properties.
- A dining concept called a “restro-lounge” designed to optimize food and beverage services in the W Hotel lobby-bar areas.
This is just another example of how far-reaching intellectual property has become. As brands become more important and as innovation touches on customer experiences created by companies, the intellectual efforts used create these assets will increase in strategic importance. This kind of competitive knowledge is safeguarded by contracts called confidentiality agreements. Starwood Hotels required its executives to sign them, and this may be an important factor in this trade secret fight.
To read the entire complaint filed in District Court of New York, click here: starwood20complaint