Two local outdoors brands have pitched a turf battle.
Camping gear manufacturer The Coleman Company, which has an office in Golden, has sued its former director of sales for breaking a non-compete agreement when he decamped to rival outfitter Exxel Outdoors.
In a complaint filed in Jefferson County court last week, Coleman also claims that the ex-employee, David Hirst, and Boulder-based Exxel broke Colorado trade secret law.
Hirst has used “trade secret, confidential, and proprietary information of Coleman, including Coleman’s customers’ nonpublic information, to elicit customers of Coleman to become a customer of Exxel,” the complaint says, and Exxel “knew or should have known” what was happening.
Amber J. Munck and Lindsay N. Uhl of Greenberg Traurig filed the case for Coleman. Reached by phone, Uhl said she could not immediately comment. Neither The Coleman Company nor Hirst returned messages seeking comment. Exxel declined to comment.
When Hirst was hired to handle $40 million of client accounts at Coleman in 2011, he signed an agreement barring him from working for competitors for a year after leaving, the complaint says.
Until he left in December, court documents say, Hirst could access databases with Coleman product specifications and manufacturing costs as well as customers’ financial data and contact information.
The lawsuit says Hirst also signed a severance agreement designed to block him from joining a rival – and got $62,000 in the bargain.
But now Hirst is “developing client relationships with the same exact customers for whom he managed at Coleman,” the complaint claims, going so far as to meet a customer rep at an event hosted by Coleman and then take the rep to Exxel HQ to try to get his business.
This is not the first time Coleman has picked a fight with Exxel in court. In September, Coleman sued Exxel for infringing on three sleeping bag patents.
Coleman started making camping lanterns in 1901 in Wichita, Kan., gradually growing its product line to include portable stoves, plastic coolers, tents and other backpacking gear. It built a log cabin-like headquarters in Golden in 1996, but then moved back to Wichita, only to return to Golden in 2012.
Exxel purchased Boulder-based American Recreation Products, the parent company of outdoor brands including Sierra Designs and Kelty, in April 2015. The terms were undisclosed.