Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2017

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Cupcakery alleges former worker stole business secrets

The Las Vegas area's trendy and fast-growing Cupcakery business is suing a California cupcake entrepreneur, charging she stole trade secrets and infringed on trademarks when she opened two gourmet cupcake shops there.

The Cupcakery was launched by Pamela Jenkins in 2005 and now has shops in the Silverado area on Eastern Avenue, in northwest Las Vegas on Lake Mead Boulevard and in Frisco, Texas; with a fourth planned for Dallas.

The popularity of the concept has expanded with numerous upscale cupcake shops, including two called Sift: A Cupcakery in Napa and Cotati, Calif., owned by Andrea Ballus.

In an April 2008 press release, Ballus said she's a master cupcake baker and related why she, her husband Jeff and her mother started the business in California.

"The idea for Sift occurred to me when we were planning our Sonoma County wedding in Sonoma last year," she said in the release. "We wanted to serve cupcakes, but all we could find were ones that tasted like plastic cupcakes, or were too dry, or really boring. Let's face it, Sonoma County has tons of great wine, but it is severely lacking in the cupcake department."

The release says: "Andrea Ballus left a promising career as a fine dining consultant in Las Vegas, where she worked with that city’s growing cadre of nationally renowned chefs, sommeliers and restaurateurs."

The Cupcakery, in a May 5 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, says Ballus is now profiting from the Cupcakery's intellectual property assets.

Ballus could not immediately be reached for comment on the allegations Monday.

The suit says Ballus applied for and was hired for a part-time position at the Cupcakery in January 2008 and that while working there, she registered the trade name Sift: A Cupcakery with the California Secretary of State.

"Upon information and belief, Defendant Ballus used Plaintiff’s trade secrets and confidential information obtained during the course and scope of her employment at The Cupcakery to develop a competing cupcake business," the suit charged. "Upon information and belief, Defendant Ballus procured her employment with The Cupcakery under false pretenses and in order to obtain such confidential information and other trade secrets regarding Plaintiff’s business model to aid in the development of her own gourmet cupcake business."

The suit goes on to level allegations of trademark infringement, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, fraud and misapplying trade secrets.

The suit was filed by attorneys Mark Tratos, Lauri Thompson and F. Christopher Austin of the Las Vegas law firm Greenberg Traurig.

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