A recent decision by the Second Circuit reminds litigants that a party asserting a trade secret misappropriation claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), or New York law, must detail in a pleading “the “reasonable measures” employed to maintain the secrecy of the alleged trade secret. In Turret Labs USA, Inc. v. CargoSprint, LLC, No. 21-952, Dkt. No 106-1 (2nd Cir. Mar. 9, 2022), the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of a motion to dismiss, concluding that plaintiff Turret Labs failed to adequately allege that reasonable measures were taken because, although there was an agreement giving the plaintiff’s customer exclusive access to the alleged trade secret, this agreement (as well as all surrounding security policy documents) failed to contractually obligate the customer to maintain confidentiality of the alleged secret.
The Sedona Conference, Working Group 12 on Trade Secrets, has released for public comment its guidance on the governance and management of trade secrets. This valuable Commentary outlines the inherent challenges in developing a trade secret protection program that aligns with a business’s goals and measurable objectives.
The Commentary recommends businesses focus on the following factors to evaluate trade secret protection programs:
- The size, maturity, industry, and location of the business;
- The nature and value of a business’s trade secrets;
- How the business can leverage its trade secrets to commercialize new services and extract additional value, maintain its competitive advantage, and incentivize innovation;
- The different measures available to protect the business’s trade secrets and their varying effectiveness; and
- The extent and cost of measures taken and the rationale for measures not taken.
In the end, the Commentary advocates an “integrated enterprise” approach to trade secret governance in order to accommodate multiple and potentially conflicting corporate interests. This approach requires several steps:…
Continue Reading The Sedona Conference Solicits Public Comment on its Commentary on the Governance and Management of Trade Secrets
In 2004, 19-year-old college sophomore Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford University to create a company that would change the world. Theranos, Inc. was going to revolutionize medicine with its proprietary blood testing devices that could detect high cholesterol, cancer, and other medical conditions with a single finger pinprick. In 2014, the company’s valuation peaked at over $9 billion, making Holmes the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world with a net worth of about $4.5 billion. Four years later, in June 2018, Holmes was indicted on eleven counts of fraud. On January 3, 2022, Holmes was convicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud investors and three counts of wire fraud. She faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison, and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, for each count.
Hulu’s new limited series, The Dropout, chronicles the rise and fall of Theranos through the lens of its CEO, played by Amanda Seyfried. Episode 7, Heroes, touches on Holmes’s well-documented preoccupation with trade secrets. During its first decade, Theranos operated in stealth mode – no media communications, no public disclosures, and no product releases. …
Continue Reading The Dropout: Trade Secrets in Pop Culture
Earlier this month, the Second Circuit clarified the requirements for alleging a trade secret misappropriation claim under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”). The decision affirmed the Eastern District of New York’s dismissal of a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit against a formerly licensed software user. In short, the Second Circuit’s decision affirmed a more stringent view of DTSA requirements to find that a trade-secret plaintiff alleging misappropriation of software functionality must have direct allegations it had confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with software’s vendors and end users.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Rejects DTSA Claim Due to Weak Software Licensing Agreement
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
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
On October 29, 2021, the District of Delaware allowed Park Lawn Corporation to continue with its trade secret claims against fellow cemetery management competitor, PlotBox, Inc., holding that the competitor only needed to have a “reason to know” improper means were used to access alleged trade secrets, based on the position of the individual feeding them the secrets.
Both Park Lawn and PlotBox develop technological solutions to manage cemetery plot placement methods, using software to facilitate mapping of gravestones electronically. This software helps automate cemetery design plans and expedites managerial tasks. The lawsuit also states that Park Lawn planned to license the trade secrets in the software to others in the industry. This plan was eventually disrupted by the Chief Executive Officer of Park Lawn, who was allegedly feeding the trade secret information to PlotBox, which also tried to hire on Park Lawn’s Chief Technology Officer. Park Lawn sued under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”).
Continue Reading Cemetery Company’s Trade Secret Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss by Reasonable Interference of Misappropriation after CEO Fed Competitor Information
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., 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
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 Supreme Court recently denied a petition for certiorari by Monib Zirvi and others, in which petitioners sought Supreme Court intervention regarding the notice required to trigger the statute of limitations clock for trade secret misappropriation claims. The case is Zirvi et al. v. Flatley et al. (Case No. 20-1612). You can review the petition here. The case arises out of a 2018 lawsuit, in which four self-described inventors of DNA Arrays brought suit against Illumina, a “multibillion-dollar, global player in genetic analysis,” alleging that Illumina and its associates conspired to steal Petitioner’s trade secrets and covertly conceal the information in patent applications. According to Petitioners, the DNA Arrays at issue are now used in the detection of cancer, inherited genetic defects, and viral infections such as COVID-19.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on Notice Required to Trigger Statute of Limitations for Trade Secret Misappropriation Claims