Reckitt wins trade-secrets trial over premature-ejaculation spray

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Illustration/
  • PE spray inventor said Reckitt Benckiser stole trade secrets
  • Jury finds information was not secret

(Reuters) - British consumer-goods giant Reckitt Benckiser LLC did not steal trade secrets from a small pharmaceutical company to make its K-Y-branded premature ejaculation spray, a jury said in a verdict made public Thursday in New Jersey federal court.

The jury concluded Wednesday after a four-week trial that Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC did not show that the information at issue was entitled to trade-secret protection, or that Reckitt committed fraud during negotiations about potentially acquiring the company.

Absorption had sought more than $450 million in damages, according to a representative from Reckitt's law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Reckitt had no immediate comment on the verdict.

Absorption CEO Jeff Abraham declined to comment.

Las Vegas-based Absorption said in its 2017 lawsuit that its Promescent lidocaine spray was "poised to do for premature ejaculation what Viagra did for erectile dysfunction." Absorption said it shared secrets with Reckitt during talks about a potential acquisition.

According to the lawsuit, senior Reckitt employees tried samples of Promescent and said it "really works." The lawsuit said Absorption later sent thousands of bottles of Promescent to Reckitt for testing.

Absorption said Reckitt ended their negotiations in 2015 and began producing K-Y Duration in 2016. Reckitt also allegedly forced Amazon and Target to reduce Promescent's visibility in an attempt to cut it out of the market.

The lawsuit also said Reckitt committed fraud by making false statements about its intentions to buy Absorption, which convinced it to divulge its secrets and decline a chance to be acquired by another company.

Reckitt argued in a court filing last month that it had not lied to Absorption, and that the company had failed to identify any trade secrets that were stolen.

"For a case purportedly about trade secrets, Absorption has consistently been vague and non-specific about what information it actually believes deserves trade secret protection," Reckitt said.

The case is Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, No. 2:17-cv-12872.

For Absorption: Jonathan Weiss and Colin Cabral of Proskauer Rose, Liza Walsh of Walsh Pizzi O'Reilly Falanga

For Reckitt: Robert Gunther, Hallie Levin and Peter Neiman of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, Paul Garrity of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, Joseph LaSala of McElroy Deutsch Mulvaney & Carpenter

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com