GT Solar wins a round in tech theft suit

GT Solar Inc. cleared the first hurdle in its suit against an Italian citizen for allegedly stealing technology from the firm’s partner and giving it to a California competitor.

On Friday, the U.S. District Court in Concord ruled that the suit could proceed in New Hampshire and not Italy, even thought the defendant – Fabrizio Goi – had only been in the Granite State for less than 24 hours.

Merrimack, N.H.-based GT Solar, which process materials and equipment to manufacture solar cells, first filed the suit against Goi in June 2008. It relates to a 2006 deal in which GT Solar bought a 99-year exclusive license to design the “36 rod reactor” designed by Poly Engineering S.r.L, an Italian design firm, and contracted with VRV SpA — where Goi was sales director — to fabricate it in September of that year.

Goi, who GT Solar says had a major role in the deal, only visited GT’s Merrimack facility once. Goi contended that he was only there to describe VrV’s technology and production capacity and that he was involved in only limited discussions of the purchase agreement.

However, James Bosco, GT Solar’s vice president, said in an affidavit that Goi was his principal contact at VRV from June 2006 until March 2007, and they talked on the phone regularly and sent scores of e-mails. Goi said that most of those e-mails went to someone else in the company

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante concluded that Goi, while downplaying his role, didn’t directly contradict Bosco, and that some of the e-mails appear to be directly addressed to him. That’s enough evidence for now, for the case to go forward, the judge ruled.

On March 31, 2008, Goi abruptly quit VRV, with no advance notice, forfeiting three months salary to work for Poly Plant Project Inc., located in Burbank, Calif., according to the original complaint. A few months later, according to the suit, PPP started marketing a 36 rod reactor, which GT Solar claims was the same as GT Solar’s.

GT Solar is asking for an unspecified amount in damages. Poly Plant Project is not named in the suit. – BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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