Pfizer sues departing employee it says stole COVID-19 vaccine secrets

From Jonathan stamp
(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc has sued a longtime employee for allegedly stealing scores on confidential documents, including some related to her COVID-19 vaccine, while preparing to switch to a competitor.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego, Pfizer said Chun Xiao Li violated her confidentiality agreement by uploading more than 12,000 files to her personal accounts and devices from her company-issued laptop without permission.
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Suspected materials include a September 24 “playbook” of internal reviews and recommendations on the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer's relationship with its German vaccine partner, and presentations on cancer antibodies.
Pfizer said Li, an assistant director of statistics, made repeated attempts to cover her tracks and even provided a "bait" laptop to show her what she did with the files.
Li "misled Pfizer about what she ingested, how she ingested it, when and why she did it, and where to find those files (and possibly others)," said the New York-based drug maker.
Pfizer said Li will step down after 15 years at the company and appears to have an offer to join Xencor Inc. on Nov. 29.
Li was not immediately available for comment on her LinkedIn account. Xencor is not a defendant in the lawsuit and declined to comment.
Pfizer said competitors were trying to "relentlessly recruit their employees, especially in 2021".
In an order late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo temporarily banned Li from using Pfizer's trade secrets, saying the company's lawyers could verify accounts and devices that she may have stored them on.
The judge has scheduled a hearing on December 9th to consider a longer restraining order.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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