Lab, PETA settle lawsuit over trade secrets
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ A New Jersey pharmaceutical testing company settled a lawsuit Monday accusing an animal-rights group of infiltrating the firm with a spy and stealing trade secrets.
Huntingdon Life Sciences Inc. contends an undercover worker for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals lied to get a job cleaning cages at the lab in East Millstone, N.J.
PETA officials said the worker videotaped lab employees yelling at and dangling monkeys, throwing some of them into cages and threading tubes down their noses for tests. The group claimed one technician cut into a monkey before it was dead.
Under the settlement signed Monday, Norfolk-based PETA must return or destroy all the information the worker _ who signed a confidentiality agreement _ took from the lab.
PETA also must return all information learned about Huntingdon during the litigation process and it may not interfere with the lab’s business relationships. PETA also is barred from any undercover information-gathering against the lab for five years.
PETA does not have to pay any damages or admit wrongdoing. The group also may respond to any inquiries from the Department of Agriculture regarding a complaint it previously filed against Huntingdon.
``We didn’t exactly give away the farm, and we did not pay them a penny,″ PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said.
She said PETA wasn’t concerned about the settlement’s restrictions because it already had written to the lab’s clients and distributed the videotape.
``We won a great deal for the animals in that Colgate canceled its contract with Huntingdon, and Procter & Gamble launched an independent investigation that led to its denouncement of Huntingdon’s animal-handling practices,″ Ms. Newkirk said.
Huntingdon President Alan Staple said the settlement achieves the company’s goals of retrieving the lab’s materials and protecting the business and its clients’ interests.
PETA estimated that Huntingdon lost $10 million as a result of its investigation and spent $2 million in legal fees.
Staple said the legal fees were closer to $1 million. He said he could not put a dollar amount on losses due to PETA, although he said the company lost some contracts worth a couple hundred thousand dollars each.
``The concern that we had was going into the future,″ he said. ``We were concerned about our reputation for maintaining confidentiality.″