BMS sues ex-account manager, claiming she took PD-1 marketing secrets to Merck agency

No company likes to lose an integral part of its marketing team--and especially not to a competitor. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) is taking the news particularly personally, suing a former account manager and her new agency for misappropriation of trade secrets.

And no wonder: At the heart of the dispute are marketing plans for a couple of the most hotly anticipated cancer immunotherapies in the industry.

According to MediaPost, Bristol-Myers and its agency Interpublic's FCB slapped a lawsuit on Stephanie Schulman and her new employer, Omnicom Group. At FCB--then known as Draftfcb--Schulman had been a senior vice president and manager of the BMS account. In January, she joined Omnicom to work on Merck's.

BMS alleges Schulman was heavily involved in marketing the cancer drug Yervoy, an immunotherapy heralded as a breakthrough in late-stage melanoma. She also worked on nivolumab, a closely watched PD-1 cancer immunotherapy that's still in the works at BMS. Schulman had been prepping for nivolumab's anticipated launch and crafting branding strategies.

Given that work, the plaintiffs say, Schulman shouldn't have been allowed to take up her new post. After all, Merck boasts its own PD-1 immunotherapy candidate, MK-3475, that could compete with the BMS pair. That means Merck's drug could potentially encroach on some of the $6 billion in peak sales analysts have forecast for the Yervoy/nivolumab tandem. And Schulman signed confidentiality agreements before leaving FCB, they claim.

"Schulman's position at Omnicom is the mirror image of her role at Draftfcb," the court complaint reads, according to MediaPost. "She cannot serve in that role without disclosing BMS's confidential and trade secret information, because Schulman cannot make decisions pertaining to Merck's directly-competing product without drawing upon her knowledge of BMS's confidential information and trade secrets. This has caused BMS to suffer irreparable harm."

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