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Company To Pay for Stealing Secrets

April 23, 1999

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Perdue Farms Inc. was ordered to pay an entrepreneur nearly $49 million for stealing his cook-in-a-bag method of roasting chicken.

In addition to a jury award of $27 million in compensatory damages, a judge Thursday ordered Perdue to pay $6.75 million in punitive damages and $15 million in interest.

Perdue, based in Salisbury, Md., said it will appeal.

Dennis P. Hook, president of H&N Foods Inc., sued Perdue in 1997, contending the chicken giant developed its TenderReady chicken based on his idea.

On April 9, the jury awarded Hook $27 million in lost income and royalties and decided Perdue should be punished for malicious actions. Circuit Judge Robert H. Bonanno decided how much Hook should get in punitive damages.

Hook’s method of preparation was similar to boil-in-the-bag vegetables. A fully cooked chicken could be frozen up to a year and heated quickly.

Hook reached an agreement with Pizza Hut in the early 1990s to market his cook-in-a-bag roasted chicken. Pizza Hut, in turn, contacted Perdue about supplying the chickens. Hook’s deal with Pizza Hut eventually fell through, but Hook said Perdue stole his idea.

Hook said he was at a trade show in Paris when he stopped by a Perdue booth and saw a brochure touting TenderReady.

Perdue said it did not think it violated a confidentiality agreement in developing its own cook-in-the-bag method.

The judge did not immediately rule on Hook’s request to stop Perdue’s marketing of TenderReady.

Forbes magazine has estimated Perdue’s annual revenue at $2.2 billion.

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