On August 13, 2020, a Delaware District Court judge granted Defendant Azstrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP’s motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff Lithero, LLC failed to plead a plausible trade secret misappropriation claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”).
Lithero’s complaint alleged that Azstrazeneca misappropriated Lithero’s confidential and proprietary information regarding Lithero’s Automated Regulatory Assistant (“LARA”), including information regarding how it is trained and the process by which it learns, as well as “years of past research and development, the current capabilities of LARA coming as a result of that research and development, and detailed plans for future areas of growth.” But none of these allegations were sufficient to survive dismissal at the pleadings stage.
As explained in the judge’s Order, while courts generally do not require a plaintiff to disclose the trade secrets at issue in detail in the complaint, in order to adequately plead trade secret misappropriation under the DTSA, a plaintiff must nonetheless identify a trade secret with “sufficient particularity” so as to provide notice to a defendant of what he is accused of misappropriating and for a court to determine whether misappropriation has or is threatened to occur.
In this case, despite the fact that the Court permitted Lithero to file its complaint under seal to avoid unnecessary public disclosure, the Court found that its “complaint describes the alleged trade secrets in broad terms.” Specifically, the Court explained that the complaint “points to large, general areas of information that Plaintiff alleges to have shared with Defendant, but does not identify what the trade secrets are within those general areas. Without knowing, for example, what about LARA’s training process is a trade secret, Defendant is not put on sufficient notice of what it is accused of misappropriating.” Therefore, the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s trade secret misappropriation claim.
With the expected increase in trade secrets litigations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for companies to refresh their understanding of the requirements for pleading a plausible trade secret misappropriation claim under the DTSA, paying close attention to what is required to plead with particularity the information alleged to constitute a trade secret.