It’s the time of year again when we are taking a look at 2021’s top ten most read posts. This year, we witnessed an increased risk of trade secret theft due to the Great Resignation, proposed trade secret misappropriation penalties as a result of Chinese government trade secret espionage, and the expansion of ITC involvement in trade secret misappropriation. Take a look at our top ten posts that highlight these key developments.

Continue Reading The Year’s Most Popular Posts

On November 23rd, Pfizer filed a complaint against former employee Chun Xiao “Sherry” Li in a California federal court alleging that Li pilfered over 12,000 files worth of critical documents and trade secrets. U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo granted Pfizer’s motion for a temporary restraining order barring Li from using, disclosing or transmitting any confidential information or trade secrets owned by Pfizer, destroying or altering any of that information or destroying any devices storing the information. Li also must return any hard copy documents containing Pfizer’s confidential information or trade secrets, Judge Bencivengo said.

Hired as associate director of statistics in Pfizer’s global product development group at Pfizer’s facility in La Jolla, California in 2006, Li sought greener pastures at Xencor Inc. in 2021. Perhaps in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, Li treated herself to a parting gift of what Pfizer calls its clinical “playbook.” Its complaint also cited misappropriation of documents containing operational goals, goals for various drugs including cancer drugs, clinical development plans and clinical trial techniques.
Continue Reading Bad Medicine: Pfizer Files Complaint to Halt Potential COVID-Related Trade Secret Misappropriation

The 11th Circuit upheld a decision to unseal “embarrassing internal communications” between members of the United Network for Organ Sharing (“UNOS”) relating to its new policy directing liver transplants to go to the sickest patients within a certain radius of the donor.

The Court opened its opinion with a powerful question: “Organ donation saves lives—but whose?” Decades ago, Congress enacted the National Organ Transplant Act which authorized UNOS to create policies to facilitate the equitable distribution of organs among potential recipients. UNOS recently approved the Acuity Circles Policy, claiming its intent is to provide more liver transplants to patients in the greatest need, even if they are farther away from donors. Several hospitals and transplant centers who oppose the policy (and filed this lawsuit to prevent implementation of the policy), argue that it will make it more difficult for those outside of urban areas – and in particular those in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas – to access organs.
Continue Reading Who Spilled the (Kidney) Beans? 11th Circuit Unseals Private Emails in Organ Transplant Dispute

In a case pitting Wasco County, Oregon residents and a newspaper against the City of Dalles, Oregon, a court will decide whether a public interest exception in a state law will mandate the disclosure of potential trade secrets. After a reporter from The Oregonian inquired into Google’s water use, the City of Dalles (“Dalles”) filed a Complaint against both the reporter and the newspaper (the “Defendants”) seeking declaratory relief, requesting that the court declare Google’s water use a trade secret under Oregon’s Public Records Law, ORS 192.311 et seq, and the Oregon Uniform Trade Secrets Act, ORS 646.461 et seq. As described below, the issue is whether Google’s water use is a trade secret, and if so, if the public interest exception, which may permit public disclosure of trade secrets, applies.
Continue Reading City Claims Google’s Water Use Is A Trade Secret and Exempt from Oregon’s Public Records Laws

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

Illinois employers planning to protect confidential and proprietary trade secret information through the use of non-compete agreements or non-solicitation agreements need to be aware of amendments to the Illinois Freedom to Work Act that will take effect on January 1, 2022.  These changes will institute a number of new requirements designed to restrict the use of non-compete and non-solicitation agreements.

Illinois law currently prohibits employers from requiring that workers earning less than $13 per hour sign non-compete agreements.  That threshold is about to change.  The law will instead prohibit the use of non-competes with workers earning less than $75,000 annually, and the minimum threshold will increase at various pre-determined dates.  The minimum amount will rise to $80,00 per year on January 1, 2027, $85,000 per year on January 1, 2032, and $90,000 per year on January 1, 2037.
Continue Reading Illinois Amends Requirements for Non-Compete Agreements

The Epic Systems Corp. (“Epic”) and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (“Tata”) trade secret case concerning damages, and most recently reported by us on September 17, 2020, may continue before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the case was included in the Supreme Court’s conference schedule on September 27 and October 8, 2021, following those conferences, the Supreme Court has asked the U.S. government to weigh in on whether the Court should grant Epic’s April petition for certiorari.
Continue Reading The Epic Trade Secret Saga Continues – Will the Supreme Court take the case?

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

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