Competitor Misappropriation

Restrictive covenants and non-compete agreements have been a frequent topic of this blog in recent months, and rightfully so. Non-competes are generally thought to be effective tools to help firms protect trade secrets and competitive advantages. However, these agreements are falling out of favor across the country – the DOJ recently file a Statement of Interest in a state court case taking the position that non-competes may violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. Further, states continue to pass laws limiting or banning the use of noncompete agreements, including Illinois, Oregon, Nevada, D.C., and Colorado

But one Texas court seems to buck this trend. Last month, Fort Bend County District Judge J. Christian Becerra granted a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) in a trade secret misappropriation case, forcing multiple former employees to stop work for a competing business, and limiting one particular employee from engaging in any competing work for any competitor. The catch? Not a single employee had a non-compete agreement.

Continue Reading No Non-Compete? No Problem. Texas Court Grants TRO Forcing Former Employees to Stop Working for Competing Business.

Earlier this week, a Virginia jury awarded software company Appian Corp. more than $2 billion in damages after finding that competitor software company Pegasystems Inc. had misappropriated its trade secrets. The complaint alleged that Pegasystems engaged in corporate espionage and trade secrets theft in an effort to better compete with Appian. Pegasystems hired Youyong Zou, an employee of a government contractor and former developer for Appian. In exchange for payment, Zou provided Pegasystems with copies of Appian’s confidential software and documentation in violation of confidentiality restrictions that barred him from sharing Appian’s trade secrets. In 2020, Appian filed suit against both Pegasystems and Zou.
Continue Reading $2B Jury Verdict in Trade Secrets Suit

Trade secrets are always at risk when engaging in corporate deals that require the disclosure of confidential information. Though there is no sure-fire solution to protecting a company’s trade secrets, if handled properly, there is legal recourse to help mitigate any loss and deter trade secret theft. In a recent decision, the 8th Circuit affirmed the grant of a motion to dismiss a breach of contract action between a company and its financial advising firm. The facts, as presented in the District Court’s September 29, 2020 decision (19-cv-03125-JRT-HC, EFC No. 73), are instructive:

Protégé specializes in researching and developing blood-clotting products and maintains its work as trade secrets. In late 2017, looking to sell its business, Protégé entered into an Engagement Agreement with Duff & Phelps. The Engagement Agreement required Duff & Phelps to keep confidential any of Protégé’s non-public information, as well as provided immunity for certain corporate and individual liability and disclaimed a fiduciary duty. Smith reached out to Doug Schillinger, a Managing Director at a private equity firm, and board member at Z-Medica, which is also in the blood-clotting products space, to coordinate a meeting between Z-Medica and Protégé.
Continue Reading An NDA Leads to the Loss of Trade Secrets, a Failed Deal and No Recourse

The Sedona Conference, Working Group 12 on Trade Secrets, has issued guidance on protecting trade secrets in litigation about them. This important Commentary recommends courts:

  • Balance the risk of disclosure and harm to the producing party with the need for the other party and to have the information to prepare its case when determining a

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 March 2021, AbbVie, Inc. and AbbVie Biotechnology Ltd. (“AbbVie”) sued rival pharmaceutical company Alvotech hf. (“Alvotech”) for trade secret misappropriation under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) and the Illinois Trade Secret Act. In May, Alvotech filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for both failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction. And just a few days ago, the North District of Illinois Court issued an order finding that it lacked jurisdiction over AbbVie’s causes of action, and dismissed the case.
Continue Reading AbbVie Trade Secret Claims Fail at Pleading Stage for Lack of Jurisdiction

The District Court for the Southern District of California held that despite not alleging direct evidence of misappropriation, a complaint’s allegations about a company’s lack of experience in the particular industry coupled with its purported behavior during business negotiations were sufficient to state a claim that an allegedly competing product misappropriated trade secrets under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and to defeat a motion to dismiss. According to the Complaint, Applied Biological Laboratories (ABL), a biotechnology company that researches, develops, manufacturers, and distributes healthcare products, developed an antiviral nasal technology using immunoglobulin G, a common antibody in body fluids. ABL’s antiviral nasal spray is allegedly effective against rhinoviruses and novel respiratory pathogens, such as COVID-19. With an application to the mouth and nose, the antiviral spray allegedly aids in naturally flushing pathogens and foreign particles in the digestive tract.

Continue Reading Curiosity Killed A Motion to Dismiss: A Biotech Company’s Business Negotiations Turn into a Trade Secrets Fight

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

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?