June 13, 2024   

Apogee Lighting Accuses Former EVP of Trade Secret Theft

2024 06 apogee lighting vs gaon trade secret theft.jpg

New lawsuit alleges ex-executive stole confidential data and aided competitors


Apogee Lighting, a Long Island-based manufacturer of specialized lighting solutions for transit infrastructure and other commercial applications, has initiated legal action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The company, headquartered in Deer Park, New York, alleges that former Executive Vice President Marty Gaon engaged in the theft of trade secrets and unauthorized competition. Apogee's complaint accuses Gaon of exploiting proprietary information and confidential business strategies developed at Apogee to aid competitors, which has resulted in direct harm to Apogee's operations and its standing in the competitive market of transit lighting solutions.

Apogee Lighting, best known for its vandal-proof lighting specifically designed for subway stations, transit authorities, and other related spaces, drives its business through commercial lighting agents and also through strong partnerships with transit authorities like New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). The lawsuit details how Gaon's actions jeopardized these relationships and the company's market position, leveraging sensitive information Gaon accessed while serving in his capacity at Apogee.


Among the allegations, the most serious include:

1. Misappropriation and Disclosure of Confidential Information:

Gaon is accused of downloading, copying, and transferring Apogee's confidential information from his company-issued laptop before and after his termination. This act is seen as a direct violation of his employment agreements, which explicitly prohibited such actions. Furthermore, Gaon allegedly "wiped" the laptop's hard drive to erase evidence of his misdeeds, compounding the breach of his duty to safeguard Apogee's confidential data.


2. Unauthorized Competing Activities:

Following his termination, Gaon reportedly engaged with several of Apogee’s direct competitors using the confidential information he obtained during his tenure at Apogee. He is specifically accused of facilitating the manufacture of competing products, such as LED boards, through third-party manufacturers, using proprietary designs and information that belonged to Apogee. This action not only breached his contractual obligations but also placed Apogee at a competitive disadvantage.

Starfire Lighting, Inc.: Gaon is accused of using Apogee’s confidential information to assist Starfire in manufacturing products that compete directly with Apogee’s offerings. He allegedly used his previous relationships developed during his tenure at Apogee to facilitate introductions and business dealings with Starfire.

XERO: After his dealings with Starfire, Gaon is alleged to have contacted XERO through a sales representative relationship initially developed at Apogee, attempting to use Apogee’s confidential information to compete directly against Apogee in the transit business sector.

marty gaon apogee xero.jpg

Above:  Xero Lighting website currently cites Gaon as National Sales Manager, Transit.  Screen capture image editied to redact contact information.

CEM Ltd.: Gaon allegedly engaged this contract manufacturer to produce LED boards based on confidential and proprietary engineering and design files from Apogee, which would compete directly with Apogee’s products.

3. Violation of Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Agreements:

The complaint details that Gaon acted in direct violation of restrictive covenants laid out in his Bonus Agreement and Equity Purchase Agreements, which were designed to prevent him from engaging in any business activities that would directly compete with Apogee or solicit its customers for a defined period post-employment. His interactions with companies like Starfire Lighting and XERO, as alleged, are direct contraventions of these agreements.


Above: Excerpt from legal complaint

These actions, according to Apogee, have caused substantial economic damage and potential loss of market share, necessitating legal action to mitigate ongoing and future harm.

Apogee seeks various forms of relief, including injunctions to prevent further violations, monetary damages, and legal fees, highlighting the severity of the alleged breaches and their impact on the company's business operations.

We reached out to both Apogee Lighting and Gaon for comment. Apogee Lighting declined to comment, and Gaon did not respond by the time of publication.