Fruit of the Loom Inc is to sue rival t-shirt manufacturer Gildan Activewear over allegations of industrial espionage.

Fruit of the Loom filed suit in the US court on allegations that Gildan Activewear stole the company's operating plans and lured away some of its top executives.

"This case is about industrial espionage at the highest corporate level and the lengths to which predatory competitors will go to obtain commercial advantage," Fruit of the Loom said in its filing.

The complaint goes on to claim that Gildan and executive vice-president of planning and logistics David Cherry, who left Fruit of the Loom in 1998, conspired with Fruit of the Loom's director of customer service, Elizabeth Walton, to obtain confidential copies of the company's forecast report and 'sew plan'.

The complaint continues, making allegations that Gildan hired two workers who had worked under Cherry at Fruit of the Loom and therefore knew how to interpret the 'sew plan' to establish Fruit of the Loom's production plans.

Another section of the complaint alleges that Gildan hired another ex-Fruit of the Loom executive, John Martin, who had been responsible for developing Fruit of the Loom's competitive strategies against Gildan.

The complaint went on to say: "The stolen operating plans provide Gildan with a road map to Fruit of the Loom's production and sales strategies worldwide. Gildan's conduct has irreparably harmed Fruit of the Loom and mocks any notion of 'fair' competition."

Gildan Activewear has so far refused to comment on the suit saying that it will answer the allegations at the court hearing later today.