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

A recently introduced U.S. Senate bill demonstrates both the United States’ continued focus on foreign government-sponsored trade secret misappropriation and the International Trade Commission’s (“ITC”) potential untapped ability to swiftly protect intellectual property (“IP”) owners against this illegal conduct under Section 337.

This summer, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced the “Stopping and Excluding Chinese Rip-offs and Exports with United States Trade Secrets Act of 2021,” also known as the “SECRETS Act of 2021.” If passed, the bill would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to fortify the ITC’s power to protect IP owners against trade secret misappropriation as well as work to expedite the investigatory and exclusionary processes.
Continue Reading Legislation Would Bolster ITC Power Against Foreign Government-Sponsored Trade Secret Misappropriation

On April 20th, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. introduced Senate bill S. 1245, “The Combating Chinese Purloining (CCP) of Trade Secrets Act.” The full text of the bill is not yet available, but a press release announcing the legislation highlighted key features of the CCP, including:

  • increasing the maximum penalty from 5 to 20 years of imprisonment for individuals who use “communication interception devices” to aid a foreign government;
  • expanding trade secret misappropriation penalties for foreign persons, including by: the U.S. Customs and Border Protection imposing import restrictions, the U.S. Department of Commerce denying export licenses, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejecting applications for patent protection, and the U.S. Department of State denying visas;
  • creating grounds for inadmissibility and deportability for individuals that seek to enter, or remain in, the U.S. to engage in espionage and intellectual property theft; and
  • prohibiting the issuance of visas to Chinese nationals who present a national security risk and to prevent their pursuit of graduate-level coursework in sensitive fields.


Continue Reading Senator Lindsey Graham’s Proposed Legislation Seeks to Combat “Chinese Purloining” of U.S. Trade Secrets

On March 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, along with GOP members of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, announced legislation to address corporate espionage and foreign influence in Florida. In public remarks about the proposed legislation, Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls expressed concern about the threat of China’s influence on local governments and university systems, stating “that there are no limits to the depths to which other countries, especially China, will go to steal our science and technology.”

Continue Reading Florida Lawmakers Seek to Address Corporate Espionage in Proposed Legislation

We are looking back on our series where we spotlight international issues in trade secret law under the Belgian Trade Secrets Act.

To claim that major conclusions can be drawn from the dozen decisions handed down since the Trade Secrets Act came into force would not be serious. Nevertheless, listing and comparing these rulings has led to some striking observations.

The number of judgments that we found is limited. There are a number of possible explanations for this. A first explanation could be that some parties whose information has been misappropriated since the Trade Secrets Act have not (yet) determined this. This explanation seems to be confirmed by the fact that in several of the cases we have discussed, a period of three to four years elapsed between the facts giving rise to the claim and the first step taken by the claimant against the alleged infringer.[vii] The limited number of judgments may also be partially explained by the fact that even parties who have established infringement may have subsequently realized how many hurdles there are to bringing a successful claim under the Trade Secrets Act. Finally, it seems that there may well be a significant number of potential claimants who, though being aware of infringement and willing to overcome the hurdles, possess insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the infringer misappropriated their secret information. Although the possibility of a unilateral application through summary proceedings was discussed, a statutory scheme like that for intellectual property rights (the counterfeit search and seizure procedure) would probably allow for smoother gathering of evidence.


Continue Reading International Issues in Trade Secret Law Series: A Look Back at Issues Under the Belgian Trade Secrets Act

In our prior post, we discussed under what conditions business information could qualify as a trade secret under Belgian law (it must be secret, have commercial value, and be subject to reasonable protection measures).

Today’s post, which is the fourth in our series where we spotlight international issues in trade secret law, looks at two other critical questions:

1) Is the use of a trade secret per se unlawful?

Even if it can be successfully demonstrated that the information at issue meets the cumulative conditions of Article I.17/1 Belgian Economic Code and is thus protected as a trade secret, this does not necessarily mean that it has been used unlawfully. The owner of the trade secret must hence demonstrate that their trade secret has been unlawfully used by a third party. The discussion will often revolve around the unauthorized access to the trade secret, as provided for in Article XI.332/4 Belgian Economic Code. This is certainly the case when the party accused of misappropriation is an ex-employee or an independent service provider of the trade secret holder, who gained access to the information in question during their employment or assignment.


Continue Reading International Issues in Trade Secret Law Series: Unlawful Use and Burden of Proof for Trade Secret Misappropriation under the Belgian Trade Secrets Act

Today’s blog is the third in a series where we spotlight international issues in trade secret law, in particular, answering practical questions and providing insights into the application and interpretation by Belgian courts of specific aspects of the Belgian Trade Secrets Act. (See our first post here and our second here.)

Today’s post addresses two questions:

1) When does information have trade value?


Continue Reading International Issues in Trade Secret Law Series: Valuing and Taking Reasonable Measures to Protect Trade Secrets under the Belgian Trade Secrets Act

Today’s blog post is the second in a series where we spotlight international issues in trade secret law, in particular, answering practical questions and providing insights into the application and interpretation by Belgian courts of specific aspects of the Belgian Trade Secrets Act.

Today’s post addresses two questions:


Continue Reading International Issues in Trade Secret Law Series: Substantive Jurisdiction and Trade Secret Status under the Belgian Trade Secrets Act

Today’s blog post is the first in a series where we spotlight international issues in trade secret law, in particular, answering practical questions and providing insights into the application and interpretation by Belgian courts of specific aspects of the Belgian Trade Secrets Act.

On August 24, 2020, a dedicated few celebrated the second anniversary of the entry into force of the 2018 Belgian Trade Secrets Act.[i] With this new law, the Belgian legislator transposed the 2016 EU Trade Secrets Directive[ii] into national law. The Trade Secrets Directive is the result of a European Commission regulatory initiative, taken after a number of issues were revealed by studies conducted at its request.[iii] In particular, it was found that EU Member States lacked a uniform approach to trade secrets and that some of them had very limited trade secrets protection, which in turn hindered innovative cooperation between companies across the EU. In addition, trade secrets were perceived as important assets for companies in terms of innovation and competitiveness. This was particularly true for SMEs which, given their more limited resources, attach greater importance to trade secrets than to other, generally more expensive, forms of protection (such as patents). The need for effective and coherent protection had thus increased significantly in recent years, partly because of an increased risk of misappropriation and abuse of confidential business information. The Trade Secrets Directive aimed to harmonize the rules across the EU and to ensure that companies could rely on both substantive and enforcement provisions, with the ultimate goal of achieving an adequate and consistent level of civil measures to protect trade secrets throughout the internal market.[iv]  The Belgian Trade Secrets Act and its application in case law should be seen in this specific context.


Continue Reading International Issues in Trade Secret Law Series: Parties and Procedural Options under the Belgian Trade Secrets Act

On December 20, 2020, the US Senate unanimously passed a new bipartisan bill designed to punish foreign individuals and corporations involved in intellectual property theft.

The Protecting American Intellectual Property Act was co-authored by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.  The bill requires a report to Congress every six months identifying:

  • any individual or firm that has engaged in, benefitted from, or materially assisted the significant theft of U.S. trade secrets, if that theft constitutes a major threat to the national security, foreign policy, economic health or financial stability of the United States; and,
  • the chief executive officers and board members of the reported firms and whether those individuals have benefitted from the significant theft of U.S. trade secrets.


Continue Reading Senate Passed New Legislation to Punish Foreign Individuals and Corporations for IP Theft