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Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber in the Best Buy ad.

Christopher Polk, Associated Press/Business Wire

Best Buy sued over new buyback

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS
  • Star Tribune
  • February 18, 2011 - 8:46 PM

A California company is accusing Best Buy Co. Inc. of stealing trade secrets for its new, much-ballyhooed buyback program introduced to the nation earlier this month by Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne.

TechForward Inc. alleges in a lawsuit filed in federal court in California earlier this week that Best Buy officials turned to TechForward for help in designing the program but eventually took the California company's proprietary information "and then cast the company aside while using TechForward's trade secrets to implement its own buyback program."

"Best Buy looked to TechForward for a solution," the lawsuit states. "Unbeknownst to TechForward, however, Best Buy had no intention of paying for TechForward's help."

Best Buy declined to comment on pending litigation.

Best Buy announced the buyback program for high-tech electronics in January and featured it nationally in the retailer's first-ever Super Bowl commercial featuring Bieber and Osbourne.

The program allows consumers to return certain electronic items and receive credit depending on how long they have used the product. It applies to laptops, notebooks, table computers, post-paid mobile phones and televisions. Consumers have to pay an up-front fee for the return guarantee.

TechForward, which is seeking unspecified damages, asserts Best Buy breached confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements that were in place while Best Buy worked with TechForward in developing the program.

However, six months after Best Buy obtained TechForward's trade secrets, the lawsuit states, Best Buy "abruptly" ended its relationship with TechForward and shortly thereafter announced its new buyback program, "which is virtually identical to TechForward's Guaranteed Buyback Plan."

TechForward, which was founded in 2005 and is based in Los Angeles, offers its buyback plan through a variety of electronic retailers such as CompUSA.

David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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