A Legal Shot

Can a company maintain and build market share by aggressively suing its rivals? Consider the David vs. Goliath legal battle between Birmingham's On Go Energy drink and Farmington Hills's 5-Hour Energy drink.


Published:

(page 1 of 7)

Derrick George was about to pitch his new energy drink to a group of national distributors at a trade show in Chicago when his office called. They said the FBI was at the back door of his business, Aspen Fitness Products in Birmingham, with a search warrant.

The agents, who arrived in three unmarked white vans, proceeded to seize and haul away several boxes of company records. They also interrogated Aspen’s staff, including a new crop of interns, about whether George was a chemist and whether he was a manufacturer, along with other pertinent questions. “All the interns knew was that I was a lawyer, and they pointed to my diploma on the wall,” George says of the May 2009 incident.

“I can’t say for sure who said what to have the FBI search my offices, but my biggest competitor (5-Hour Energy) was across the aisle from me at the trade show. And just as I’m about to present my energy drink to the distributors, the FBI is banging on my door at my office in Birmingham. The timing was rather suspicious.”

It wasn’t until March 2011 that the FBI returned Aspen’s records, sources say. Gina Balaya, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, says she can neither confirm nor deny that a raid took place. “No charges have been filed against Mr. George or Aspen Fitness Products,” she says.

Soon after the search, George says he heard from various channels who said they were concerned Aspen was under investigation by the FBI. “You can bet I didn’t tell any of my suppliers or contacts the FBI had raided my offices, but someone was out there spreading the news to my network,” George says. “And I’m sure it wasn’t the FBI. They don’t talk to anyone.”

It wasn’t long after the FBI returned his company records that Innovation Ventures in Farmington Hills, which produces, distributes, and sells the popular 5-Hour Energy drink, sued George and Aspen Fitness Products in U.S. District Court. The complaint, which revived similar allegations from a lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court that was dismissed in May 2009, claimed Aspen obtained stolen “trade secret formulas” and customer or vendor lists via a former 5-Hour Energy executive. The case is now in discovery.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Foreign Correspondent

From Bloomfield Village to Tiananmen Square, ABC News’ Bob Woodruff covers the world.

From the Middle East to the Motor City

More than 500,000 people of Middle Eastern descent live in metro Detroit, and, combined, they generated $36.4 billion in economic activity in 2015. While the road to self-reliance can take years due to language and cultural barriers, the influx of refugees has been a boon to the regional economy.

Open Our Arms and Trust, But Verify

From an economist’s perspective, each legal immigrant holds the potential for augmenting “human capital,” the ultimate source of growth and prosperity for a region or nation.

2016 Champions of the New Economy

For the seventh straight year, Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan, in partnership with DBusiness magazine and News/Talk 760 WJR, selected six regional executives who are driving growth in highly competitive industries.

Fiber Wars

Internet companies are racing to provide ever-faster data speeds, but there’s a much larger economic opportunity — hyper quick connectivity is a proven business-attraction tool.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Stroh’s Returns to Detroit, Announces Release Date for New Pilsner
    Stroh Brewery Co., one of Michigan’s oldest brands, will return to brewing beer in Detroit with...
  2. Ford and Jose Cuervo Partner to Develop Sustainable Auto Materials
    Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. is partnering with Jose Cuervo, a New Jersey tequila producer, to...
  3. Toyota Contributes $1.4M to Michigan Science Center STEM Education
    Toyota Motor North America, which operates the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, has donated...
  4. Anytime Fitness Opens in Ferndale, More Locations in Metro Detroit Planned
    Anytime Fitness, a 24-hour gym franchise, has opened a new 6,000-square-foot location on Woodward...
  5. Ann Arbor Home Selected for HGTV Renovation Project
    HGTV’s Urban Oasis project, a televised giveaway sweepstakes that works with local designers...
  6. Detroit Polo Club Acquires Property, Plans to Expand Membership
    In a bid to expand membership, add a clubhouse, and offer more amenities, the Detroit Polo Club...