Caterpillar found guilty of stealing trade secrets for creation of excavator quick couplers

Updated Jan 8, 2016

Caterpillar 323F L excavator Grade With AssistCaterpillar has been ordered to pay Miller UK Ltd. nearly $74 million after being found guilty by a federal court in Chicago of stealing trade secrets in order to create its excavator quick coupler lineup.

The decision comes five years after Miller filed its lawsuit and was the result of an eight-week trial.

“We are disappointed by the jury’s verdict,” a Cat spokeswoman told the Peoria JournalStar“We are considering our next steps in this litigation.”

At one point, Caterpillar was Miller’s largest customer, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports Miller released its Bug coupler in the late 1990s and grew rapidly thanks to its ability to allow excavator operators to change attachments without leaving the cab.

Caterpillar quickly grew attached to the Miller coupler. An October report from the New York Times says in 2006 Caterpillar accounted for as much as 28 percent of Miller’s business, placing about 10,000 orders per year for the company’s quick couplers.

Miller told the Journal that Cat “insisted on access to confidential information” about the design of the coupler before ending its relationship with the company in 2008 with the release of its own couplers. According to the Cat website, the company currently offers 20 models of coupler for excavators and mini excavators.

The loss of Cat’s business devastated the company, causing it to cut three quarters of its then-400-employee workforce.