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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 7 months ago

Company accused of fraud

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Trinity Graphics claims Tervis didn't abide by its agreement with the company.

Two Sarasota County companies are at odds.

Sarasota-based printing company Trinity Graphic recently filed a lawsuit against Venice-based drinkware manufacturer Tervis, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, fraud, breach of contract and conspiracy. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa Jan. 26. It also names Louisville, Kentucky-based Southern Graphics and SGS International as defendants.

“For years,” the lawsuit states, “Tervis sought the technology and knowhow that would allow it to print specialized, high-quality graphics on its drink-ware. Tervis approached printing company Trinity to develop a solution.”

Trinity developed a printing method, and as a Tervis vendor, the company printed wraps used inside Tervis tumblers for several years, the lawsuit alleges. That ended in February 2017.

The complaint adds: “Tervis defrauded Trinity into signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement with absolutely no intention of honoring that agreement's terms. In reliance on that NDA, Trinity disclosed its trade secret process to Tervis. Tervis then took that information to Southern, transferred all of the relevant business to Southern, and promptly fired Trinity.”

The actions, the lawsuit alleges, allowed Tervis and Southern to reap “millions of dollars in ill-gotten profits.” Due to the success of the wraps, Tervis' annual revenue increased, according to the complaint, from roughly $45 million to $150 million in fewer than five years. By contrast, the complaint says, “Trinity has been left teetering on the brink of bankruptcy,” with damages, it says, in excess of $25 million.

Trinity founder and chairman Robert Smithson declined to comment, directing questions to the Fort Lauderdale law firm representing him, Pollard PLLC.

“After decades of hard work and millions of dollars invested, Trinity developed a proprietary method of printing high-quality graphics for drink ware,” Pollard PLLC attorney Jonathan Pollard writes in a statement emailed to the Business Observer. “Other companies tried but failed to develop that same method. That method was Trinity's trade secret. When Tervis couldn't develop that method on its own, Tervis worked in concert with Southern to misappropriate it.”

Tervis President Rogan Donelly also declined to comment on the lawsuit, offering a statement instead: “Tervis does not comment specifically on pending litigation, but we hold ourselves to the highest ethical and legal standards, and will vigorously defend any claim to the contrary.”

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