Last week, government contractor Advanced Fluid Systems Inc. wrapped up its summary judgment briefing in a case loaded with trade secrets trends. In June, Advanced sought summary judgment in the Middle District of Pennsylvania on its claims for misappropriation of trade secrets, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. Advanced had sued a former employee, the company that the employee then founded, and another rival firm – arguing that the defendants had teamed up to steal and exploit Advanced’s proprietary designs for hydraulic systems. According to Advanced, the result was a $2 million subcontract for work at a NASA launch site, which went to the employee’s new company instead of Advanced.
At the heart of Advanced’s allegations is the charge that, while still working at Advanced, the former employee downloaded “virtually all files” from Advanced’s servers, including sensitive drawings regarding its hydraulic technology. Advanced argued that, just days later, the employee’s start-up company began attaching its name to some of those drawings and ultimately submitted them as part of their bid on the subcontract.
Whatever the court’s determination on the briefs, the underlying fact pattern is an all too common one. The case highlights the need to remain ever-vigilant with respect to those employees who have access to a company’s crown jewels, as well as the potential benefits of data loss prevention (or “DLP”) technology.