A perennial issue in trade secret litigation is: what factual allegations must be pled regarding what trade secrets are left when there are related patents from the same company on the same technology. The recent decision Safe Haven Wildlife Removal and Property Management Experts, LLC v. Meridian Wildlife Services LLC provides insight on this issue
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.
Last week, the Western District of Washington concluded that a multi-level marketing beauty company sufficiently alleged that it exercised reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of its training materials, and network salespeople and contact lists, despite the salespeople using their personal Facebook accounts, and despite making the training materials available to a Facebook group comprising thousands of members. Accordingly, the court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss with respect to defendants’ alleged trade secret misappropriation in violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act.
Plaintiff, Tori Belle Cosmetics LLC (“Belle Cosmetics”), sells its cosmetics and false eyelashes through a network of salespeople, allowing each salesperson to earn a portion of any revenue generated by any salespeople they recruit to join their sales network, i.e., a multi-level marketing business. Defendants are five former network salespeople of Belle Cosmetics, who plaintiff alleges, helped design and launch a competing product line for a company called Juvanae LLC. Belle Cosmetics alleges its trade secrets include, inter alia, lists containing contact information of customers and network salespeople including in the form of social media contacts, and training materials in the form of videos, photos, informational posts, webinars and other instructional materials that it makes available to thousands of its network salespeople through a Facebook group called “Team Lash Out.”
Continue Reading Multi-Level Marketing Company Sufficiently Alleges Reasonable Efforts Despite Posting Trade Secret Materials to Thousands
Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on funding from donations, gifts, and the like to make an impact in the communities they serve. Such resources are relatively scarce, and fundraising in the nonprofit world is a highly competitive endeavor. Accordingly, carefully guarded donor and participant lists may be considered trade secrets. N. Atl. Instruments, Inc. v. Haber, 188 F.3d 38, 44 (2d Cir. 1999). Under the Uniform Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1836 et seq., a trade secret is information that derives economic value from not being generally known that is subject to reasonable measures of secrecy by its owners. But how does a nonprofit charitable organization sufficiently plead the economic value of its donor and participant lists?
Continue Reading The Economic Value of Nonprofits—Donor and Participant Lists
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
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 Kansas District Court judge recently dismissed a trade secrets misappropriation action between two competing livestock nutrition companies.
In Biomin Am. Inc. v. Lesaffre Yeast Corp., Plaintiff Biomin America, Inc. (“Biomin”) sued competitor Lesaffre Yeast Corporation (“Lesaffre”) and two former Biomin employees who now work for Lesaffre, asserting trade secret misappropriation under the Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, 18 U.S.C. § 1836 (“DTSA”) as well as a handful of state law claims, including breach of contract, tortious interference, civil conspiracy, and unfair competition.
Specifically, Biomin alleged that the two employees misappropriated trade secrets and violated restrictive covenants contained within their Biomin employment agreements by soliciting Biomin employees and customers and marketing Lesaffre’s competing products at a lower price.
Continue Reading Livestock Feed Trade Secrets Case Put Out to Pasture
When does a cause of action come close enough to a trade secret claim to become preempted by the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”)? CUTSA preempts statutory and common law claims “based upon misappropriation of a trade secret.” In other words, with some exceptions, claims predicated on trade secret misappropriation allegations may only be asserted through a CUTSA claim.
California courts have articulated two different CUTSA preemption tests: (1) the “common nucleus” test and (2) the “dependence” test. In many cases, the two tests will yield the same result. Sometimes, however, the tests will produce divergent outcomes.
Continue Reading Two Tests for Trade Secret Preemption under California Law
On September 23rd, 2019, the District Court for the District of Colorado awarded Atlas Biologicals, Inc. a total of $2 million against Defendant Thomas Kutrubes and his company, Peak Serum, Inc. Kutrubes, a part owner and former employee of Atlas, was found liable for trademark infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of fiduciary duty.…
On June 28, 2019, the Luxembourgish Mémorial published the Law of June 26, 2019 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information better known as trade secrets implementing the EU Trade Secrets Directive 2016/943 after a one year delay. The recent Luxembourgish Law is a literal transposition of the EU Directive and provides a legal definition of “trade secrets,” which was up until now only defined by the courts. The EU Directive defined “trade secret” as information that (i) is secret, i.e. not publicly known or readily accessible to persons normally dealing with this kind of information, (ii) has commercial value because it is and remains a secret, and (iii) has been subject to reasonable steps under the circumstances, by the person lawfully in control of the information, to keep it secret. This definition thus includes any kind of sensitive business information that is kept secret by reasonable measures, such as market studies, business plans, pricing information, etc.
Continue Reading Luxembourg Implements the Trade Secrets Directive