Coffee Wars: Starbucks Sues To Stop Former Executive From Joining Dunkin’ Donuts

Earlier this week, Starbucks Corp. sued a former executive in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeking enforcement of a noncompetition agreement. (Starbucks Corp. v. Paul Twohig, Civil Action No. 09-01404 (W.D. Wash.))

Former Division Senior Vice President Paul Twohig left Starbucks in March 2009, and, according to news reports, purportedly accepted a position with Dunkin’ Donuts as its Brand Operations Officer. According to the complaint, Twohig executed a noncompetition agreement in 2004, promising that he would not participate in the management, operation, or control of any direct competitors for 18 months after leaving Starbucks.

Starbucks alleges that, as Division Senior Vice President, Twohig controlled all aspects of Starbucks’ retail operations in the Southeast, including developing the brand and creating business plans. And, Starbucks contends that after leaving the company in March, Twohig contacted Starbucks in August to ask whether it would release him from his noncompetition agreement, so that he could accept a position with Dunkin’ Donuts. Starbucks declined to release Twohig from the contract.

Starbucks is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, damages and fees.