On December 16, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held for the first time in Attia v. Google LLC that a misappropriation claim under the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) may be brought for a misappropriation that started prior to the enactment of the DTSA as long as the claim also arises from post-enactment misappropriation or from the continued use of the same trade secret.  The decision further expands the reach of the DTSA and provides a blueprint for other courts to rule along the same lines.

The case, which was originally filed in the Northern District of California in 2014, was brought by an architect and his firm against Google under the DTSA, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), and state trade secret and contract laws for alleged misappropriation of the plaintiff’s “Engineered Architecture” technology.[1] Although the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the DTSA claim on the grounds that  the architect lacked standing under the DTSA because Google’s 2012 patent applications based on the “Engineered Architecture” technology placed the contested information in the public domain, extinguishing any trade secret claims over it,[2] the Ninth Circuit’s ruling was significant for other reasons, namely the expansion of the DTSA’s potential applicability.


Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Allows Defend Trade Secrets Act Claims for Conduct Predating the DTSA

Last week, a District Court in the Southern District of New York imposed a $40,000 sanction on SIMO Holdings, Inc. (“SIMO”) for violating a pretrial discovery protective order.  SIMO disclosed four documents covered under the protective order to persons not permitted to view those documents, and the Court determined that a $10,000 sanction for each document was warranted.

Continue Reading Plaintiff Sanctioned for Violating Protective Order by Sharing Discovery

Under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA), and many other states’ trade secret acts, a plaintiff must identify its alleged trade secrets as a prerequisite to conducting discovery.  Cal. Civ. Code § 2019.210.  The Ninth Circuit recently held that the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) also includes this requirement to identify alleged trade secrets with sufficient particularity.  The Ninth Circuit was considering whether the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California had abused its discretion in granting summary judgment for a defendant on CUTSA and DTSA claims by finding that the plaintiff had not identified its trade secrets with sufficient particularity without any discovery. (Spoiler alert: It did.)

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Opens the Door to Modifying a Trade Secret Identification After Discovery

In Epic Systems Corp. v. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Epic Systems Corp. (“Epic”) filed a case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin accusing Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (“TCS”) of stealing documents and confidential information related to software applications performing billing, insurance benefits management, and referral services for health care companies.

In 2016, a federal jury ruled in Epic’s favor on all claims, ordered TCS to pay $140 million for uses of the comparative analysis, $100 million for uses of “other” confidential information, and $700 million in punitive damages. We reported on the jury verdict here and permanent injunction here. The district court later struck the compensatory award for “other uses” and reduced the punitive damages award from $700 million to $280 million because of a Wisconsin statute capping punitive damages at two times compensatory damages. See Wis. Stat. § 895.043(6).

Shortly thereafter, both TCS and Epic appealed the verdict – TCS challenged the punitive damages decision and Epic appealed the decision to vacate the $100 million award relating to uses of “other” confidential information. On August 20, 2020, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion which reduced the punitive damages amount, but upheld the jury’s $140 million verdict. The Seventh Circuit held that TCS gained an advantage in its development and competition from its use of the comparative analysis and stolen information and that “the jury would have a sufficient basis to award Epic $140 million in compensatory damages” based on TCS’s use of Epic’s information to make a comparative analysis. In addition, the Seventh Circuit concluded that Epic did not provide “more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of its theory that TCS used any other confidential information” such that the $100 million award could not stand.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Upholds $140 Million Compensatory Damages Award and Caps Punitive Damages at $140 Million in Trade Secret Case

On September 2, 2020, a Southern District of California judge granted Defendant Road Runner Sports, Inc.’s motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff, Profade Apparel, LLC, failed to state a trade secret misappropriation claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”).

At Road Runner’s request, Profade designed a “Trigonomic Arch Support Sock” for sale in Road Runner running stores.  But, after ordering just a few small batches of the socks, Road Runner allegedly stopped buying the socks from Profade.  According to Profade, Road Runner then contracted with a separate vendor to manufacture socks using Profade’s design.

In asserting a DTSA claim, Profade described its trade secrets as “proprietary and confidential information regarding the development, design, and manufacture of the Trigonomic Arch Support Sock.”  It also claimed Road Runner misappropriated the “roadmap” for producing the Trigonomic Arch Support Sock.  To support these allegations, Profade attached a contract between the parties to its complaint.  The contract contemplated the parties exchanging confidential information relating to the socks’ design and production.
Continue Reading Beep, Beep: Road Runner Escapes DTSA Claim, for Now

On July 21, 2020, the First Circuit clarified the high burden that a plaintiff faces when asserting that certain types of business materials are protected trade secrets. In TLS Mgmt. & Mktg. Servs., LLC v. Rodriguez-Toledo, No. 19-1104, 2020 WL 4187246, at *6 (1st Cir. July 21, 2020), the court reversed a district court’s bench trial verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a trade secret misappropriation case on the ground that the business materials at issue did not constitute trade secrets. Plaintiff TLS Management and Marketing Services, LLC, a Puerto Rico-based tax planning and consulting firm, argued that the defendants misappropriated two of its protectable trade secrets: (1) a portion of its “Capital Preservation Reports,” which contained tax recommendations specific to an individual TLS client based on an analysis of applicable statutes and regulations; and (2) its “U.S. Possession Strategy,” which consisted of a scheme that would allow Plaintiff’s clients to take advantage of a lower tax rate on outsourced services by contracting with Plaintiff and buying its shares.

Defendant Rodriguez-Toledo was the founder of Plaintiff’s competitor, Defendant ASG Accounting Solutions Group, Inc., and for some time worked for Plaintiff TLS as a Managing Director under a subcontract between Plaintiff and ASG. After departing from TLS, Rodriguez-Toledo provided tax advice to Plaintiff’s former clients regarding how to avoid certain tax penalties triggered by terminating their relationships with TLS, which TLS’s U.S. Possession Strategy was also intended to avoid. Rodriguez-Toledo also allegedly downloaded the Capital Preservation Reports from TLS’s Dropbox account without authorization before he left TLS. TLS filed suit against both ASG and Rodriguez-Toledo for misappropriation of the two trade secrets and violation of a nondisclosure agreement. The district court found they had misappropriated both trade secrets following a bench trial, and the defendants appealed.

Continue Reading First Circuit Reverses Misappropriation Verdict, Citing Lack of Specificity

Anthony Levandowski, one of the founding members of Google’s self-driving car program and a former Uber executive, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution after pleading guilty to one count of stealing self-driving car trade secrets from Google.  This sentencing comes after years of civil and criminal matters relating to this lucrative technology.

Continue Reading Prison Time for Founding Member of Self-Driving Car Program in Trade Secret Theft Case

The legal saga between L’Oreal USA Inc. and Olaplex LLC (“Olaplex”) over a hair-coloring product continues. In August 2019, a Delaware federal jury found that L’Oreal misappropriated Olaplex’s trade secrets, willfully infringed two Olaplex patents, and breached a nondisclosure agreement. The jury awarded Olaplex $22.3 million for willful infringement of trade secrets, $22.3 million for breach of contract, and $47 million for patent infringement. On March 24, 2020, the court entered a $66.2 million final judgment including attorneys’ fees and prejudgment interest.

Earlier this month, L’Oreal appealed and asked the Federal Circuit to reverse this judgment based on purported errors by the district court in (1) improperly excluding two witnesses and (2) improperly granting summary judgment on patent infringement.
Continue Reading L’Oreal Appeals $66 Million Trade Secret Judgment

On June 3, 2020, the Fourth Court of Appeals of Texas overturned a jury verdict awarding HouseCanary, Inc. (“HouseCanary”) $740 million in damages for trade secret theft and fraud against Title Source, Inc., now known as Amrock.

Amrock and HouseCanary are competitors in the real estate sector. Amrock provides title insurance, property valuations, and settlement services in real estate transactions. HouseCanary is a real estate analytics company that developed software to determine property values. HouseCanary agreed to provide this software to Amrock, and, according to HouseCanary, Amrock reversed engineered it. After the relationship between the two broke down, Amrock sued HouseCanary for breach of contract and fraud, and HouseCanary counterclaimed for breach of contract, fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets, among other claims. The jury found for HouseCanary, awarding it compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees.
Continue Reading Faulty Jury Instruction Wipes Out $740 Million Verdict

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