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Did Best Buy Steal Trade Secrets for its Bieber Buy Back Program?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 16, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What's a Bieber?!

Those who used commercial breaks during the Super Bowl to stock up on snacks may have missed Best Buy's first-ever Super Bowl ad. Featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber, the commercial introduced the company's new Buy Back Program.

The Buy Back Program seems pretty simple--you pay a little money upfront, and in turn receive a partial refund when you decide to trade the item in for an upgrade. The amount of money you receive depends on how long you've had the gadget. While this concept seems pretty obvious, according to TechCrunch, it was anything but.

The tech site is reporting that Best Buy's Buy Back Program is actually the result of underhanded corporate maneuvers and stolen trade secrets.

According to the complaint, Best Buy executives came into contact with representatives from TechForward at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The executives approached TechForward, a company specializing in these buyback programs, explaining that they had been trying to develop a similar program with no success. A few months later, both sides met to discuss a partnership.

The two companies worked together for months to create a pilot program, which was eventually rolled out into a few stores, says the lawsuit. At one point, TechCrunch points out, Best Buy execs demanded proprietary information accompanied by a detailed explanation. TechForward provided the trade secrets after the company signed a confidentiality agreement.

Six weeks later Best Buy broke ties with TechForward. A few months later, it rolled out the Buy Back Program.

The crux of the lawsuit centers on Best Buy's use of TechForward's proprietary information to create its Buy Back Program. Profitable buyback programs rely on a complex range of factors that take years to determine and parse. TechForward had this data, as well as a model for a functioning plan. The details were only provided to Best Buy as a result of the partnership, and were not to be used "for any purpose other than that for which it [was] disclosed."

Best Buy allegedly did the exact opposite. The executives who "developed" the buyback program were the same ones who worked with TechForward, reports TechCrunch. They were also the ones with the confidential information.

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