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Siri Rao is an associate in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C. office. She is a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property Group. She received her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School in 2017, where she was a member of the American Intellectual Property Law Association Quarterly Journal. During law school, Siri interned at the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters. She received the law school’s Pro Bono Recognition Award at graduation for contributing more than 100 hours of pro bono legal services during her time in law school. Prior to law school, Siri worked as a research assistant at the Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, MD. Siri earned her B.S. in biomedical engineering from The George Washington University.

In an opinion first issued in June 2020 and modified in October 2020, the Fifth Court of Appeals in Texas granted summary judgment in a trade secret dispute based on plaintiff’s failure to present any facts that defendants had access or exposure to plaintiff’s claimed trade secrets.  Josh Malone designed a device that fills and seals water balloons.  Kendall Harter did the same.  Mr. Malone filed a patent.  Mr. Harter accused Mr. Malone of stealing his water balloon filling design.  According to Mr. Harter and KBIDC Investments, the company that acquired Mr. Harter’s company, Mr. Malone came up with his patented product by stealing the trade secrets belonging to Mr. Harter and then KBIDC Investments.  So, KBDIC Investments sued Mr. Malone and Zuru Toys, which acquired an interest in Mr. Malone’s “Bunch O’ Balloons” product for trade secret misappropriation.
Continue Reading Bunch O’ Balloons Trade Secret Dispute Results in Bunch O’ Appeals

In Epic Systems Corp. v. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Epic Systems Corp. (“Epic”) filed a case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin accusing Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (“TCS”) of stealing documents and confidential information related to software applications performing billing, insurance benefits management, and referral services for health care companies.

In 2016, a federal jury ruled in Epic’s favor on all claims, ordered TCS to pay $140 million for uses of the comparative analysis, $100 million for uses of “other” confidential information, and $700 million in punitive damages. We reported on the jury verdict here and permanent injunction here. The district court later struck the compensatory award for “other uses” and reduced the punitive damages award from $700 million to $280 million because of a Wisconsin statute capping punitive damages at two times compensatory damages. See Wis. Stat. § 895.043(6).

Shortly thereafter, both TCS and Epic appealed the verdict – TCS challenged the punitive damages decision and Epic appealed the decision to vacate the $100 million award relating to uses of “other” confidential information. On August 20, 2020, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion which reduced the punitive damages amount, but upheld the jury’s $140 million verdict. The Seventh Circuit held that TCS gained an advantage in its development and competition from its use of the comparative analysis and stolen information and that “the jury would have a sufficient basis to award Epic $140 million in compensatory damages” based on TCS’s use of Epic’s information to make a comparative analysis. In addition, the Seventh Circuit concluded that Epic did not provide “more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of its theory that TCS used any other confidential information” such that the $100 million award could not stand.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Upholds $140 Million Compensatory Damages Award and Caps Punitive Damages at $140 Million in Trade Secret Case

This week, the U.S. government continued its enforcement activity against Chinese government-sponsored trade secret theft, indicting two Chinese hackers for allegedly stealing data from 25 domestic and international companies, including targeting those now researching COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment. The two defendants had allegedly acquired hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trade secrets and other valuable business information across a span of nearly eleven years. This announcement follows in the wake of the indictment of Dr. Charles Lieber, a former Harvard professor, who allegedly lied about his participation in China’s “Thousand Talents Plan,” a program that has been accused of facilitating the stealing of American trade secrets. Our coverage of that indictment is here.

On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced charges against Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi in the Eastern District of Washington, alleging that they hacked the computer networks of 13 United States and 12 international companies in industries ranging from high tech manufacturing and medical device engineering to solar energy and pharmaceuticals, all between September 2009 and July 2020.
Continue Reading DOJ Targets Chinese Hackers for Stealing United States Trade Secrets

The trade secrets of American industries and research institutions are often the target of foreign interests, as this blog has detailed in the past. Most recently, on June 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) indicted the former Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department and nanoscientist, Dr. Charles Lieber, for allegedly making false statements to federal authorities about his participation in China’s “Thousand Talents Plan.” This Plan, according to a 2019 Senate report, is part of China’s “strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector.” Past participants in the Plan have included a former General Electric engineer, Xiaoqing Zheng, who was indicted in April 2019 for allegedly stealing GE’s trade secrets related to turbine technology while employed at GE Power & Water in Schenectady, New York.

China’s Thousand Talents Plan began in 2008 and has been a concern of the U.S. government for some time. A 2019 Senate report characterized the Plan as a danger to American national security and proprietary information and stated that it “incentivizes individuals engaged in research and development in the United States to transmit the knowledge and research they gain [in the United States] to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives.”
Continue Reading Harvard Professor Indicted for Allegedly Lying About Participation in Chinese Talent Recruitment Program

Are non-competes still enforceable in middle of the unprecedented economic disruption caused by COVID-19? Many employers have reacted to the business impact of COVID-19 by downsizing and laying off employees, some of whom signed non-compete agreements or restrictive covenants to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests, including its trade secrets and confidential information. Those same businesses now are left wondering whether those non-compete agreements are enforceable in the wake of massive unemployment triggered by the pandemic.

The answer to this question is complex, and depends on state law, public policy, and the terms of the specific agreements. Each state scrutinizes non-competes and restrictive covenants differently and, therefore, the answer may be different depending on where the business and employee are located or the agreement’s choice of law provision.
Continue Reading Non-Compete Agreements and Restrictive Covenants During COVID-19

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill went into effect in 2016. In order to obtain a permit under that bill, potential medical marijuana grower/processors or dispensaries are required to provide detailed business information with their applications. However, under the state’s Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”), applicants who can show that information about their security, storage and transportation are trade

In the Third Circuit, common law generally governs the use of restrictive covenants. States in this Circuit employ a reasonability standard to determine whether a restrictive covenant is enforceable. In New Jersey, even if a covenant is found to be reasonable, it may be limited in its application by: geographical area, period of enforceability or

In an aggressive first move, Plaintiffs – two former employees accused of trade secret misappropriation – filed a preemptive suit for declaratory relief and unfair business practices against their former employer, Defendant Chandler Holding’s, Inc., in California Superior Court. Plaintiffs contend that shortly after their resignations from Chandler Holdings, Inc., they received letters from Defendant’s

StubHub, an online ticket exchange company, successfully defeated a suit brought by start-up company Calendar Research LLC. Calendar had alleged that three of its former employees used proprietary data in developing applications for StubHub. In its suit, Calendar Research alleged that the former employees downloaded proprietary information that belonged to the startup that they didn’t

On June 14, 2018, six former and current Fitbit employees were indicted in the Northern District of California for alleged federal trade secrets offenses. The individuals are accused of either stealing market research regarding fitness tracker opportunities from Jawbone, or stealing internal studies – including a comparison study of consumer behavior in which consumers wore