Collaborator Misappropriation

In October, we published a blog post describing how trade secret claims filed by AbbVie were dismissed by the Northern District of Illinois for lack of personal jurisdiction over AbbVie’s former employee in Singapore and the competitor that poached him, Alvotech of Iceland. At that time, we thought AbbVie might replead to keep its trade secret claims in Federal District Court. AbbVie chose instead to appeal the District Court’s dismissal to the Seventh Circuit.

In addition, AbbVie has now pursued a second route—one that is becoming more and more common for global corporations claiming injury from trade secret misappropriation: AbbVie has also filed a Section 337 Complaint to the International Trade Commission (“ITC”), seeking to block imports of Alvotech’s biosimilar of AbbVie’s Humira arthritis treatment. Unlike the Federal Court action, the Section 337 Complaint is against both Alvotech and Teva (Israel) as a commercialization partner.
Continue Reading AbbVie Turns Next to the U.S. International Trade Commission in Biosimilar Trade Secret Row

A recent case from the Sixth Circuit, addressing a source code agreement, highlights the importance of carefully specifying what happens to source code (and the trade secrets therein) after breach of the agreement.  In Epazz, Inc. v. National Quality Assurance USA, Inc.,[1] the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that a software licensee did not misappropriate a trade secret of the licensor when the licensee acquired the source code from an escrow agent, because the plain terms of the license agreement between the two authorized the release if the licensor breached. Further, the licensee did not commit misappropriation by hiring another provider to maintain and further develop the source code, where the license provided “the right . . . to use the . . . Material” upon breach of the agreement.
Continue Reading Untangling a Messy Dispute: No Misappropriation for Trade Secret Use Authorized by Agreement

As the sci-fi dream of commercialized flying cars seems close to landing in reality, the electronic vertical takeoff and landing (“eVTOL”) industry is heating up, spurring new bouts over trade secrets.

Wisk Aero LLC (“Wisk”) is a veteran eVTOL company, and has been developing the technology for over a decade. The aircraft they manufacture are often described as “air taxis” or “flying cars.”  The technology behind these aircraft is now at a sufficiently sophisticated stage that commercialized versions are imminent.

Continue Reading Flying Car Trade Secrets Dispute to Be Heard on the Merits

Bolsinger is still pitching! After a recent dismissal for lack of jurisdiction in California, former Major League Baseball pitcher Michael Bolsinger refiled claims against the Houston Astros in state court in Houston, Texas on May 13, 2021.  While asserting similar factual allegations as his original California complaint, the former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher has abandoned his previous unfair business practice causes of action in favor of claims for trade secret misappropriation under the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act and for conversion. Bolsinger claims that the pitching signs he used during his August 4, 2017 game against the Astros were trade secrets.

Continue Reading Major League … Misappropriation?

On March 13, 2021, borrowing from California Code of Civil Procedure § 2019.210 (which requires a plaintiff to “identify. . . trade secret[s] with reasonable particularity” before it can obtain discovery on those trade secrets), a Northern District of California judge narrowed trade secret claims asserted under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) due to the plaintiff’s failure to specifically identify most of its asserted trade secrets prior to discovery.  Although not an explicit requirement under federal law, the Court reasoned that the disclosure requirement served to prevent plaintiffs from getting discovery and then using that discovery to “cleverly specify whatever happens to be there as having been trade secrets stolen from plaintiff.”  The decision could be significant for trade secret litigants going forward.

Continue Reading Federal Court Imports California Trade Secret Disclosure Rule and Narrows DTSA Claim

A Complaint recently filed in the Southern District of New York may shed light on courts’ willingness to apply a broad interpretation of “misappropriation” in trade secrets cases. Plaintiff Greenpoint Capital Management, which grants loans to law firms to fund high-stakes litigation, has accused Apollo Hybrid Value Management LP and Apollo Hybrid Value Management GP

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 July 21, 2020, the First Circuit clarified the high burden that a plaintiff faces when asserting that certain types of business materials are protected trade secrets. In TLS Mgmt. & Mktg. Servs., LLC v. Rodriguez-Toledo, No. 19-1104, 2020 WL 4187246, at *6 (1st Cir. July 21, 2020), the court reversed a district court’s bench trial verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a trade secret misappropriation case on the ground that the business materials at issue did not constitute trade secrets. Plaintiff TLS Management and Marketing Services, LLC, a Puerto Rico-based tax planning and consulting firm, argued that the defendants misappropriated two of its protectable trade secrets: (1) a portion of its “Capital Preservation Reports,” which contained tax recommendations specific to an individual TLS client based on an analysis of applicable statutes and regulations; and (2) its “U.S. Possession Strategy,” which consisted of a scheme that would allow Plaintiff’s clients to take advantage of a lower tax rate on outsourced services by contracting with Plaintiff and buying its shares.

Defendant Rodriguez-Toledo was the founder of Plaintiff’s competitor, Defendant ASG Accounting Solutions Group, Inc., and for some time worked for Plaintiff TLS as a Managing Director under a subcontract between Plaintiff and ASG. After departing from TLS, Rodriguez-Toledo provided tax advice to Plaintiff’s former clients regarding how to avoid certain tax penalties triggered by terminating their relationships with TLS, which TLS’s U.S. Possession Strategy was also intended to avoid. Rodriguez-Toledo also allegedly downloaded the Capital Preservation Reports from TLS’s Dropbox account without authorization before he left TLS. TLS filed suit against both ASG and Rodriguez-Toledo for misappropriation of the two trade secrets and violation of a nondisclosure agreement. The district court found they had misappropriated both trade secrets following a bench trial, and the defendants appealed.

Continue Reading First Circuit Reverses Misappropriation Verdict, Citing Lack of Specificity

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

Hourglass photo

Waiting too long to bring a trade secrets case against a defendant could be fatal.

In 2011, Alta Devices, Inc. was the world’s only known manufacturer of thin-film solar technology. LG Electronics, Inc. expressed an interest in this technology which prompted the two companies to enter into discussions about possible business opportunities and ultimately sign