On June 8, 2021, the Third Circuit clarified the requirements for making a trade secret misappropriation claim under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) in a decision vacating the District of New Jersey’s dismissal of a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit against a former employee and his current employer. In short, the Third Circuit’s decision took a more relaxed view than the District Court, finding that a trade-secret plaintiff need not “spell out the details of its trade secret” or have direct allegations of misappropriation and harm to avoid dismissal.

Continue Reading The Third Circuit Clarifies DTSA Pleading Requirements, While Vacating Dismissal

A recent decision from the Fifth Circuit showcased the usefulness of the “discovery rule” for trade secret plaintiffs facing statute of limitations issues.  The court reversed the dismissal of a claim for misappropriation of trade secrets because the plaintiff could not have discovered the misappropriation using reasonable diligence within the applicable statute of limitations period.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Rules Delayed Discovery of Misappropriation Not A Bar To Suit

As predicted, the trade secrets battle between Olaplex, Inc. and L’Oreal continues – and L’Oreal has scored a fresh victory.  On May 6, 2021, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a $66 million judgment against L’Oreal and ordered a new trial – but only on one of Olaplex’s patent claims.  The panel stated that Olaplex had entirely failed to show that its information was eligible for trade-secret protection, and that no reasonable jury could find otherwise.
Continue Reading Partial Victory for L’Oreal In Hair Coloring Fight

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) recently found that trade secret misappropriation by employees who then use the trade secrets to compete is actionable under Massachusetts’ Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Law.  The SJC’s ruling in Governo Law Firm v. Bergeron means that Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Statute, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A Section 11 (“Chapter 93A”), now applies to trade secret disputes in the employer-employer context.  Previously, such cases were considered an “internal matter” and therefore not actionable.
Continue Reading Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules that Employees May be Held Liable to Their Employer Under Massachusetts’ Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Law

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

The Eleventh Circuit recently struck down an award of $4.5 million in damages after a jury determined that a manufacturer had misappropriated a shared trade secret.  AcryliCon USA, LLC (“AcryliCon”) and Silikal GmbH (“Silikal”) had a business relationship in which Silikal manufactured and AcryliCon distributed a proprietary flooring resin of superior compressive strength (1061 SW), and each claimed ownership of the 1061 SW formula trade secret to the exclusion of the other. While ownership of a trade secret is a critical issue in trade secret misappropriation claims, the Court did not address whether AcryliCon owned the trade secret because it determined that Silikal did not misappropriate the formula as a matter of law.

Continue Reading Trade Secret Misappropriation or Breach of Contract? It can be a costly distinction.

On December 16, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held for the first time in Attia v. Google LLC that a misappropriation claim under the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) may be brought for a misappropriation that started prior to the enactment of the DTSA as long as the claim also arises from post-enactment misappropriation or from the continued use of the same trade secret.  The decision further expands the reach of the DTSA and provides a blueprint for other courts to rule along the same lines.

The case, which was originally filed in the Northern District of California in 2014, was brought by an architect and his firm against Google under the DTSA, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), and state trade secret and contract laws for alleged misappropriation of the plaintiff’s “Engineered Architecture” technology.[1] Although the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the DTSA claim on the grounds that  the architect lacked standing under the DTSA because Google’s 2012 patent applications based on the “Engineered Architecture” technology placed the contested information in the public domain, extinguishing any trade secret claims over it,[2] the Ninth Circuit’s ruling was significant for other reasons, namely the expansion of the DTSA’s potential applicability.


Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Allows Defend Trade Secrets Act Claims for Conduct Predating the DTSA

The First Circuit’s decision in TLS Mgmt. & Mktg. Servs., LLC v. Rodriguez-Toledo, 966 F.3d 46 (1st Cir. 2020) is an important reminder that trade secret owners must take great care to understand the nature of their trade secrets, how they satisfy the legal definition of trade secrets, and how they differ from other forms of intellectual property as early as possible in a case in order to create the factual record required for full enforcement and recovery.

Continue Reading First Circuit Reversal Highlights Importance of Satisfying Trade Secret Definition

Under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA), and many other states’ trade secret acts, a plaintiff must identify its alleged trade secrets as a prerequisite to conducting discovery.  Cal. Civ. Code § 2019.210.  The Ninth Circuit recently held that the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) also includes this requirement to identify alleged trade secrets with sufficient particularity.  The Ninth Circuit was considering whether the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California had abused its discretion in granting summary judgment for a defendant on CUTSA and DTSA claims by finding that the plaintiff had not identified its trade secrets with sufficient particularity without any discovery. (Spoiler alert: It did.)

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Opens the Door to Modifying a Trade Secret Identification After Discovery

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