On February 10, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) issued a final determination finding South Korean lithium-ion electric vehicle battery maker SK Innovation misappropriated the trade secrets of its Korean competitor LG Chem in violation of Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.  The ITC issued a 10-year exclusion order blocking SK’s imports into the U.S. of lithium-ion batteries and related products, but with substantial exceptions: SK is permitted to continue importing these products specifically for Ford Motor Co.’s EV F-150 program for four years, for Volkswagen of America’s modular electric drive line for two years, and for the repair and replacement of EV batteries for Kia vehicles sold to U.S. customers.  President Biden and his U.S. Trade Representative—Katherine Tai has been nominated but not yet confirmed—now have 60 days to review the ITC’s electric vehicle battery exclusion order, an order that could be seen as in tension with the new administration’s promotion of green energy.

Continue Reading ITC Finds Trade Secret Misappropriation and Bars Electric Vehicle Batteries from SK Innovation—With Exceptions

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

On January 13, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) issued the long-awaited public version of its final opinion in the Matter of Botulinum Products (Inv. No. 337-TA-1145), otherwise known as the “Botox case.” As previewed in the ITC’s earlier notice of decision, the ITC’s final opinion affirmed the Administrative Law Judge’s issuance of a 21-month ban on imports and sale of Respondents’ lower-cost alternative to Botox for misappropriation of trade secret manufacturing processes and reversed the finding that Complainant Medytox’s specific strain of botulinum toxin bacteria is a protectable trade secret.

As we previously reported, South Korean company Daewoong Pharmaceutical and its U.S.-based licensee Evolus had been facing a potential 10-year ban of the import and sale of its product, Juveau; however, because the ITC reversed the ALJ’s finding and instead held that the bacterial strain at issue was not a protectable trade secret, the Respondents could not be liable for trade secret misappropriation of the bacterial strain itself. The ITC thus reduced the length of the ban from 10 years to 21 months, accounting for the ITC’s finding that Respondents were liable for theft of trade secrets related to Medytox’s manufacturing process.


Continue Reading Final ITC Ruling in Botox Rival Case Creates More Head-Lines

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

As the year comes to a close, it’s safe to say 2020 was a year unlike any other and full of lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to the growing threat to U.S. intellectual property abroad.

A look back on the 10 most read posts from this past year highlights some key developments

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

On December 16, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) affirmed in part and reversed in part Administrative Law Judge David P. Shaw’s final initial determination from July against a South Korean manufacturer of an anti-wrinkle beauty treatment made from the botulinum toxin bacteria called Jeuveau. The ITC affirmed the ALJ’s findings with respect to the manufacturing process trade secrets but overturned the ALJ’s finding that Complainants Medytox and Allergan had any protectable interest in the bacterial strain itself. As a result, the ITC rejected the ALJ’s recommendation that a 10-year ban be imposed and concluded that Respondents Daewoong and Evolus should be barred from importing Jeuveau for 21 months instead. The ITC’s decision also issued a cease and desist order to prevent Evolus from selling any products previously imported unless it posts a bond equal to $441 for each 100-unit vial of Jeuveau. A full opinion on the ITC’s decision will be available roughly two weeks from now.

Continue Reading ITC Decision Adds New Wrinkle to Ban of Botox Competitor in Trade Secret Misappropriation Case

A fundamental question in every trade secret misappropriation case is: what are the alleged trade secrets that are the subject of the claim?  To assist parties and courts in answering this question, the Sedona Conference recently published Commentary on the Proper Identification of Asserted Trade Secrets in Misappropriation Cases (“Commentary”) which is available for download here.

The Commentary provides four guiding principles for identifying different types of asserted trade secrets:

  1. the identification of an asserted trade secrets during a lawsuit is not an adjudication of the merits or a substitute for discovery;
  2. the party claiming trade secret misappropriation should identify in writing the asserted trade secret at an early stage of the case;
  3. the party claiming the existence of a trade secret must identify the asserted trade secret at a level of particularity that is reasonable under the circumstances; and
  4. the identification of an asserted trade secret may be amended as the case proceeds.


Continue Reading Sedona Conference Publishes Commentary on Proper Trade Secret Identification

Why litigate a case for months or years, only to arrive at a settlement that would have been possible before the case began?  In many cases, neither litigant would choose this approach, but it happens quite often nonetheless.  According to Lex Machina data, about 60% of trade secret cases filed in federal court in the last decade ended in either a voluntary (8%) or stipulated (52%) dismissal.  Of course, many of these settlements were likely informed by discovery and the arguments made by the parties in court.  But in other cases, resolutions probably could have been reached before both parties incurred unnecessary litigation expenses.

Continue Reading Trade Secret Strategies: Using Standstill Agreements to Resolve Disputes Out of Court

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