Profiting off Public Panic – Abbott Laboratories et al v. Brown

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in fraud by wrongdoers seeking to profit off public panic and strained resources.  One such example is asserted in the lawsuit filed by global health care company Abbott Laboratories (“Abbott”) against its former employee Justin Brown in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  In the Complaint, Abbott alleges that Brown stole Abbott’s customer information and fraudulently represented that he was selling Abbott’s COVID-19 diagnostic products.

While employed by Abbott, Brown’s responsibilities included promoting and selling Abbott’s dialogistic products.  Brown allegedly informed Abbott that he needed to take military leave to fulfill his obligations to the United States Navy Reserve and subsequently took a six-month leave.  However, according to the Complaint, Brown had falsified this information and instead, had been secretly working for a competing company during this time, while collecting military-leave pay.

After his termination, Brown allegedly refused to return his Abbott-issued laptop, registered the domain name “abbottdx.com,” created the email account “[email protected],” and included Abbott’s trademarked name and logo in his email signature block in order to solicit Abbott’s customers and fraudulently represent that he was selling Abbott’s products.  Based on these allegations, Abbott asserts claims against Brown for trade secret misappropriation and trademark infringement, among others.  Brown has yet to file a response.

The type of allegations laid out in the Complaint are far from uncommon during this time in which we see counterfeit COVID-19-related equipment, price gouging, fake treatments—and behind it all, opportunists seeking to exploit the crisis to make a quick buck.