The Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion that serves as a reminder of the importance of developing robust affirmative evidence of damages suffered as a consequence of trade secret misappropriation, including the causation of those damages. In Joshua David Mellberg LLC v. Will, the plaintiffs filed an action against its former employees and their new company for misappropriation of trade secrets and unjust enrichment. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Reminds Plaintiffs That Trade Secret Misappropriation Damages Without Adequate Proof of Causation Are Not Enough

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

On June 8, 2021, the Third Circuit clarified the requirements for making a trade secret misappropriation claim under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) in a decision vacating the District of New Jersey’s dismissal of a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit against a former employee and his current employer. In short, the Third Circuit’s decision took a more relaxed view than the District Court, finding that a trade-secret plaintiff need not “spell out the details of its trade secret” or have direct allegations of misappropriation and harm to avoid dismissal.

Continue Reading The Third Circuit Clarifies DTSA Pleading Requirements, While Vacating Dismissal

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

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

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

On August 6, 2020, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) released a public version of the Final Initial Determination (“ID”) in the Matter of Botulinum Toxin Products (Inv. No. 337-TA-1145), that, if upheld by the ITC Commission, might signal an expansive view of the ITC’s territorial jurisdiction and the scope of trade secret protection. The ITC’s jurisdiction in trade secret investigations is limited to matters that destroy or substantially injure a “domestic industry in the United States.” An interesting aspect of the ID is that it recommends banning importation of a Botox-competitor product (Jeuveau®) that was found to incorporate misappropriated trade secrets of a foreign Complainant whose domestic licensee and Co-Complainant have yet to make any sales of that product in the United States. The ID also found “domestic injury” based on the licensee’s industry, not the licensed trade secret’s industry. The Commission will issue a final decision in November.
Continue Reading ITC Administrative Law Judge Decision Implicates Scope of Trade Secret Protections

A federal judge in Colorado declined to sanction Plaintiff DTC Energy Group Inc. (“DTC”) for disclosing information governed by a civil protective order. DTC Energy Group, Inc. v. Hirschfeld, 1:17-cv-01718 (D. Colo. July 27, 2020).

DTC, a consulting and staffing firm serving the oil and gas industry across the United States, filed suit in July 2017 against Defendants Ally Consulting, LLC (“Ally”), a former business partner and direct competitor of DTC, and two former DTC employees.

The amended complaint alleged a variety of claims, including trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, breach of employment contract, and civil conspiracy to steal trade secrets.

During  discovery, and subject to an oral protective order issued by the court, Ally produced to DTC documents and information that contained certain of Ally’s trade secrets.  DTC later shared documents produced as “confidential” in the litigation with both its outside criminal attorney and with a Denver assistant district attorney after receiving a grand jury subpoena for those documents.  Ally and the other defendants accused DTC of malfeasance and of willful violation of the protective order, and sought sanctions in the  litigation.

Continue Reading Caught between a rock and a hard place; that is, a subpoena and a protective order