Legal row over recipe for spice burger

Tue, Aug 25, 2009, 01:00

The makers of the spice burger have secured a number of High Court injunctions against a former director who it is claimed has been passing off burgers made by him as their product.

Walsh Family Foods Limited have sought the orders against one of its former directors Patrick Walsh, who is the son of the person credited with inventing popular chipper staple, and is one of the few people who knows the burger's secret recipe.

The court was told that Mr Walsh has been making and selling spice burgers as well as using trade secrets that are the property of the company. Lawyers for Walsh Family Foods claimed this was contrary to the terms of his employment.

The company has secured a number of interim injunctions against Mr Walsh, with an address in St Canices Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 11.

The injunctions restrain Mr Walsh from destroying any information or interfering with any of the companies property, in particular any documentation sent by the suppliers of ingredients for the spice burger.

He is further compelled to return to Walsh Family Foods any property of the company, in particular any documentation sent to him by National Food Ingredients Limited in relation to the recipe for the spice burger.

The orders also restrain Mr Walsh deleting or destroying any confidential information that relate to any scope of the company’s business acquired by Mr Walsh during his employment with or in his capacity as a director of the company.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy granted the injunction, which were made on an ex-parte (one side only) basis. The Judge made the matter returnable to Thursday’s sitting of the High Court.

Marcus Dowling, for the company, said that injunctions were being sought at this stage in order to ensure that Mr Walsh does not delete an e-mail, containing details of the spice mix, that was sent by the firm that supplies the ingredients for spice burgers and the paper trial whereby he passed on the recipe to third parties.

Mr Walsh, counsel said, sells the burgers as “Paddy Walsh Spice Burgers,” and the “Original Spice Burger Company”.

Those actions, counsel claimed, are in breach of the provisions of his contract of employment, which prevents him from revealing any trade secrets to any group or company. The e-mail the court heard was sent last April at a time when it was known that the company was in financial trouble.

The court also heard that in correspondence lawyers acting on behalf of Mr Walsh denied that he is bound by the terms of a contract of employment he signed in 2000.

The court heard that Mr Walsh was a Director and employee of the company up until May of this year. His father Maurice developed the Spice Burger in his shop during the 1950s.

He said that the defendant and his sister Helen then helped develop the company which became a market leader for various foods. In 2000, Mr Walsh, and his sister sold part of the business to a consortium headed by Mr Pat McCaughey for £1 million Irish punts.

Mr Walsh stayed on as an employee whose jobs was to secure grants for R&D from Enterprise Ireland.

Kieran Wallace of KPMG, who was appointed receiver to Walsh Family Foods by Bank of Scotland Ireland Ltd on June 19th last, said that in an affidavit that Mr Walsh has been passing off the produce manufactured by him as the companies product.

The company after getting into financial difficulties stopped making spice burgers, however following a prominent media campaign it recommenced production of spice burgers in early July.

Mr Walsh it was claimed appears to have commenced supplying burgers until after the company had recommenced production. Mr Wallace said since Mr Walsh started making burgers customers of the firm had cancelled orders.

Mr Wallace said that he intends to sell off the business as a going concern and at present there are a number of parties interested. However, Mr Walsh’s activities will have to be disclosed to potential buyers, and Mr Wallace said that the activities of Mr Walsh represents serious difficulties in trying to sell the business.

The court also heard from Paul Hickey operations director of the company that Mr Walsh obtained the precise breakdown of the constituents for the spice burger from the dry ingredients manufacturer National Foods Products. Mr Walsh had access to the rest of the recipe from the computer system.

He said that the spice burgers being made by Mr Walsh look indistinguishable from those made by the company. However, he did state that Mr Walsh had re-introduced MSG into the product to give it a slightly stronger flavour.