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Forces go to battle in Star Wars trade secrets lawsuit

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Two former employees of the model-making company that gave the universe Star Wars' iconic droid R2-D2 allegedly went over to the dark side by poaching a key client, swiping proprietary information, and then leaving to form a rival outfit, according to a complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

McCune Masterworks is suing the company's former shop supervisor, production designer and vendor for misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition, and other claims, charging that Monty Shook, Jack Edjourian and John Ferrari conspired to destroy McCune's business by creating a competing company to steal a longtime client.

Messrs. Shook and Edjourian worked with the late Grant McCune for more than 20 years on such projects as Spiderman, Rambo and Iron Man 2.

Mr. McCune died of pancreatic cancer in 2010. His wife Katherine took charge and focused on making models and gifts for consumers as the movie business shifted from miniature models to computer-generated effects.

Most of McCune Masterworks' revenue came from an annual contract to build 500 automata music boxes for SBIZ/Equity Group, which is worth $3 million, according to the complaint. Tensions between Katherine McCune and Messrs. Shook and Edjourian were running high during this period, as the two men believed a model-maker should own McCune.

Mr. Edjourian did a stealth job for SBIZ in 2012, the complaint said, and set up a plan to leave McCune and take the client with them.

Before shifting into hyperdrive, the defendants gathered “valuable proprietary information” including confidential client project details and vendor lists. The complaint alleged that Shook and Edjourian copied pertinent information and then “tried to cover their tracks” by wiping a hard drive clean in an effort to “destroy the evidence of their wrongful and intentional conduct.”

McCune is seeking exemplary, actual and compensatory damages and restitution of at least $3 million.