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

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

In a recent order, a judge in the Western District of North Carolina held that even though Plaintiff filed for a preliminary injunction in the United States, it may also arbitrate the dispute in Switzerland.  This highlights that even with an arbitration agreement in place, trade secret litigation can occur on multiple fronts.
Continue Reading Multi-Front Trade Secret Protection: Moving for Injunction in U.S. Court Does Not Stop Plaintiff from Arbitrating in Switzerland

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a preliminary injunction prohibiting a former distributor and its parent company from selling a spine implant device that incorporated trade secret information. Plaintiff Life Spine, Inc. had created a device to correct spinal spacing issues during surgery. Life Spine contracted with Defendant Aegis Spine to distribute the device only to medical facilities nationwide and to keep Life Spine’s confidential information secret and use the confidential information only in furtherance of the business relationship. However, Life Spine alleged that Aegis Spine passed confidential details, such as component dimensions to fractions of a millimeter of the device, to Aegis Spine’s parent company, who quickly developed a similar device that competed against Life Spine’s device. Life Spine sued Aegis Spine and its parent, alleging that Aegis Spine misappropriated its trade secrets, as well as other contractual and tort claims, and sought a preliminary injunction. Based on findings of trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract, the Northern District of Illinois entered a preliminary injunction against Aegis Spine and its business partners from making, marketing, distributing, selling, or obtaining intellectual property rights in the competing device to Life Spine’s device.

Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Affirms Trade Secret Protection of Patented Spinal Implant Device

While California law is clear regarding the elements required to establish a misappropriation of trade secrets claim, the law has remained unsettled on the elements required to maintain an action for threatened misappropriation of trade secrets. However, in the case of Beauty Barrage LLC, et al. v. Dermaceutical Laboratories LLC, et al., San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo shed some light on the question.

Continue Reading Addressing Wrinkles in California’s Threatened Misappropriation of Trade Secrets Law

Located in the heart of Europe, Belgium is a true hub of logistics and innovation. It is for example home to one of Europe’s largest sea ports (with all the warehousing infrastructure that one would expect). Belgium also hosts several, globally leading biotech and life sciences clusters. It is no coincidence for example that pharma giant Pfizer has one of its largest production and packaging sites in Puurs, a small Belgian town, where it produces its Covid-19 vaccine. A few miles north, Jansen Pharmaceuticals has its HQ.

Such hubs are not just rich in talented human resources, but also in cutting edge and highly valuable know-how. A high concentration of know-how, combined with the increased mobility of employees, means a high(er) risk of misappropriation of this valuable information by unauthorized (third) parties. When a (foreign) company suspects its know-how has been misappropriated in Belgium, it will need evidence to substantiate this allegation in court. If the know-how is (also) covered by an intellectual property (IP) right, the holder of the know-how has access to a very efficient means of collecting evidence: the descriptive counterfeit seizure whereby discovery-like evidentiary measures will be granted ex parte. When the misappropriated know-how is only protected as a trade secret, no similar measures are provided for under EU law. The Belgian judges have therefore in the past not been very eager to grant trade secret holders access to ex parte evidence-gathering. With a recent judgment, however, the Brussels Court of Appeal has left the door behind which discovery-like measures are stored for holders of trade secrets open.


Continue Reading Gathering evidence of trade secret infringement in Belgium: towards discovery-like measures?

Changing Patent Protections

U.S. and foreign patent systems have suffered legislative and judicial reverses as
to subject matter eligibility for patenting, a rising bar of obviousness due to increasing skill of the art, insights aided by artificial intelligence (AI) tools, procedural artifacts for no-risk post grant invalidation by granting agencies, and awakening of once dormant

First off, don’t worry, Coca-Cola’s super-secret trade secret recipe is still safe.  But on April 22, 2021, a jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee convicted a former Coca-Cola employee, Dr. Xiaorong (a/k/a Shannon) You, of stealing trade secrets related to BPA-free coatings for the inside of beverage cans for the Chinese Government. The Indictment alleged that the trade secret information cost almost $120 million to develop. The twelve-day in-person trial focused not just on the former employee’s wrong doing, but also on some the best practices Coca-Cola and Eastman Chemical Company used to protect the trade secrets at issue.

Continue Reading Former Coca-Cola Employee Convicted of Stealing Trade Secrets for the Chinese Government

Since its passage in 2016, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) has become a powerful tool for litigants seeking civil redress for the misappropriation of trade secrets to get into federal court.  The DTSA is particularly important because it allows litigants to seek redress for misappropriation that happens outside of the United States – overcoming the general presumption that federal law does not have an extraterritorial reach.  We recently discussed the significance of the DTSA’s application across the globe and how to effectively achieve quick recourse.

Continue Reading The Sedona Conference Publishes An Analysis of How to Seek Global Redress of Trade Secret Misappropriation

We have reported on various aspects of the EU Trade Secrets Directive on this blog. The legal requirements for something to qualify as a trade secret, the misappropriation of trade secrets and the remedies that exist to rectify such misappropriation, as well as the protection of trade secrets during court proceedings have all been discussed. However, in order to be properly prepared for trade secrets litigation and enforcement – both in Belgium and across the EU – you also need to know what damages are potentially available for trade secrets misappropriation and more importantly what evidence will have to be shown to the court.

Continue Reading Enforcement of trade secrets in the EU: compensation and damages for trade secret misappropriation