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On November 23rd, Pfizer filed a complaint against former employee Chun Xiao “Sherry” Li in a California federal court alleging that Li pilfered over 12,000 files worth of critical documents and trade secrets. U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo granted Pfizer’s motion for a temporary restraining order barring Li from using, disclosing or transmitting any confidential information or trade secrets owned by Pfizer, destroying or altering any of that information or destroying any devices storing the information. Li also must return any hard copy documents containing Pfizer’s confidential information or trade secrets, Judge Bencivengo said.

Hired as associate director of statistics in Pfizer’s global product development group at Pfizer’s facility in La Jolla, California in 2006, Li sought greener pastures at Xencor Inc. in 2021. Perhaps in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, Li treated herself to a parting gift of what Pfizer calls its clinical “playbook.” Its complaint also cited misappropriation of documents containing operational goals, goals for various drugs including cancer drugs, clinical development plans and clinical trial techniques.
Continue Reading Bad Medicine: Pfizer Files Complaint to Halt Potential COVID-Related Trade Secret Misappropriation

In a recent order, a judge in the Western District of North Carolina held that even though Plaintiff filed for a preliminary injunction in the United States, it may also arbitrate the dispute in Switzerland.  This highlights that even with an arbitration agreement in place, trade secret litigation can occur on multiple fronts.
Continue Reading Multi-Front Trade Secret Protection: Moving for Injunction in U.S. Court Does Not Stop Plaintiff from Arbitrating in Switzerland

A recently introduced U.S. Senate bill demonstrates both the United States’ continued focus on foreign government-sponsored trade secret misappropriation and the International Trade Commission’s (“ITC”) potential untapped ability to swiftly protect intellectual property (“IP”) owners against this illegal conduct under Section 337.

This summer, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced the “Stopping and Excluding Chinese Rip-offs and Exports with United States Trade Secrets Act of 2021,” also known as the “SECRETS Act of 2021.” If passed, the bill would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to fortify the ITC’s power to protect IP owners against trade secret misappropriation as well as work to expedite the investigatory and exclusionary processes.
Continue Reading Legislation Would Bolster ITC Power Against Foreign Government-Sponsored Trade Secret Misappropriation

The U.S. Justice Department indicted a man for allegedly conspiring to steal proprietary data from General Electric (“GE”) and produce and sell it in China.
Continue Reading DOJ Indicts Hong Kong Citizen in Attempted Trade Secrets Scheme

Last week, a District Court in the Southern District of New York imposed a $40,000 sanction on SIMO Holdings, Inc. (“SIMO”) for violating a pretrial discovery protective order.  SIMO disclosed four documents covered under the protective order to persons not permitted to view those documents, and the Court determined that a $10,000 sanction for each document was warranted.

Continue Reading Plaintiff Sanctioned for Violating Protective Order by Sharing Discovery

On June 3, 2020, the Fourth Court of Appeals of Texas overturned a jury verdict awarding HouseCanary, Inc. (“HouseCanary”) $740 million in damages for trade secret theft and fraud against Title Source, Inc., now known as Amrock.

Amrock and HouseCanary are competitors in the real estate sector. Amrock provides title insurance, property valuations, and settlement services in real estate transactions. HouseCanary is a real estate analytics company that developed software to determine property values. HouseCanary agreed to provide this software to Amrock, and, according to HouseCanary, Amrock reversed engineered it. After the relationship between the two broke down, Amrock sued HouseCanary for breach of contract and fraud, and HouseCanary counterclaimed for breach of contract, fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets, among other claims. The jury found for HouseCanary, awarding it compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees.
Continue Reading Faulty Jury Instruction Wipes Out $740 Million Verdict

Plaintiffs wishing to sue for patent, copyright, or trademark infringement all have one thing in common: they must prove they own the IP at issue. Not so for trade secrets. Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the Pennsylvania Uniform Trade Secrets Act only requires a plaintiff to lawfully possess, rather than formally own, the trade secrets it wishes to vindicate. With this opinion, the Third Circuit affirmed a district court decision awarding $3.5 million in damages and fees to NASA subcontractor Applied Fluid Systems Inc. (“AFS”) in its suit for trade secret misappropriation.

The “sorry story of disloyalty and deception piled upon deception” began in 2009, when AFS entered into a three-year contract with the Virginia Commonwealth Space Flight Authority (the “Authority”) to build, install, and maintain a hydraulic system for a NASA rocket launch facility. However, the Authority experienced financial difficulty, and eventually had to cede control of the launch system to a private entity, Orbital Sciences Corp. (“Orbital”). Through this acquisition, Orbital inherited the AFS contract. Importantly, the initial contract between AFS and the Authority made any materials generated by AFS for the Authority the property of the Authority.
Continue Reading A Story of Disloyalty and Deception: The Third Circuit Chimes in on Ownership Requirements in Trade Secrets Act Cases

On April 21, 2020, Lex Machina released the third iteration of its annual trade secret litigation report (request the report here). Based on data from federal district court filings in Lex Machina practice areas from 2010 – 2019, the report reveals several interesting items worth highlighting.

First, trade secret cases increased by about 30% between 2015 and 2017. This is no surprise given the May 2016 passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act – the first federal statute directed at trade secrets. But, since 2017, the increase in trade secret filings has leveled off, with roughly the same number of cases in 2017, 2018, and 2019 (around 1400 in each year). Remarkably, the number of cases in these three years is within five of each other.

Second, the report provided stats for the other common causes of actions pled in trade secret cases.
Continue Reading Lex Machina Releases New Trade Secret Litigation Report

On April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court granted cert in Van Buren v. United States, to resolve an important circuit split over the meaning of “authorized access” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This is the Court’s first foray into analyzing the precise contours of CFAA liability. Van Buren may have far-reaching implications for any individual or business operating in the digital domain, as the scope of civil and criminal liability under the CFAA can impact just about any sort of relationship involving access to computer systems, whether it be employer-employee relationships or third-party relationships.

The CFAA was enacted in 1986 as a first-of-its-kind statute designed to combat computer-related crimes, and has become an important and powerful tool for not only for the government but any business seeking to protect its intellectual property and computer systems. The CFAA imposes criminal liability on any person who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization” or “exceeds authorized access” and, in doing so, obtains information from any protected computer. The CFAA also provides a civil cause of action for similar conduct. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(2), 1030(a)(4), 1030(a)(5)(B)-(C).
Continue Reading “Authorized Access”: The Supreme Court’s First Foray Into The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The Federal Circuit recently rejected an attempt to avoid a trade secret trial in state court by invoking federal jurisdiction under patent law. Intellisoft discovered, in the early 2010’s, that Acer had applied for a patent which incorporated its alleged trade secrets.  Intellisoft sued Acer in March 2014 in California state court asserting various state law claims, including trade secret misappropriation. The Acer patent was thus a key component of Intellisoft’s trade secret misappropriation evidence and was the subject of fact and expert discovery by both parties.

The case proceeded in state court for three years. As discovery wrapped up, one of Intellisoft’s experts opined that an Intellisoft employee – who created some aspects of the trade secrets at issue – should be named as an inventor on Acer’s patent. Additionally, a second Intellisoft expert opined that portions of the Acer patent’s claims corresponded to various Intellisoft trade secrets.
Continue Reading Patents as Evidence of Trade Secret Theft Does Not Create Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction