Earlier this month, the Second Circuit clarified the requirements for alleging a trade secret misappropriation claim under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”). The decision affirmed the Eastern District of New York’s dismissal of a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit against a formerly licensed software user. In short, the Second Circuit’s decision affirmed a more stringent view of DTSA requirements to find that a trade-secret plaintiff alleging misappropriation of software functionality must have direct allegations it had confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with software’s vendors and end users. Continue Reading Second Circuit Rejects DTSA Claim Due to Weak Software Licensing Agreement

The Sedona Conference, Working Group 12 on Trade Secrets, has issued guidance on protecting trade secrets in litigation about them. This important Commentary recommends courts:

  • Balance the risk of disclosure and harm to the producing party with the need for the other party and to have the information to prepare its case when determining a party’s access to trade secrets;
  • Consider the public’s qualified right of access to documents filed with a court, but exercise discretion to deny public access in compelling circumstances; and
  • Determine whether a party has credibly identified the existence of a trade secret before ordering appropriate protections.

Sedona Conference materials are often relied upon by courts. Trade secret litigants need to be aware of the risks that their trade secrets could be disclosed in litigation and of the legal framework to persuade courts to order appropriate protections. Thus, this Commentary is required reading for trade secret holders.

The US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently filed a Statement of Interest in connection with a pending case in Nevada State Court, Samuel Beck, et al. v. Pickert Medical Group, P.C. et al., further highlighting the DOJ’s heightened scrutiny of post-employment restrictive covenants under the antitrust laws and their effects on competition. In this noteworthy Statement of Interest, the DOJ takes the position that post-employment restrictive covenants may constitute both horizontal and vertical restraints of trade that violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Statement of Interest follows the DOJ and FTC’s  2017 Antitrust Guidance for Human Resources Professionals which addressed how antitrust law can apply to employee hiring and compensation and a December 2021 DOJ and FTC workshop that addressed how contractual restraints on trade can harm labor markets, as well as recent executive orders and statements by the Biden administration limiting and criticizing the use of noncompetition agreements with employees. The DOJ’s Statement of Interest thus represents yet another step up in pressure by the federal government signaling it will continue taking more action to discourage the use of contractual restraints on trade in employment-related agreements. Continue Reading Enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements; Recent Input from the DOJ

Last week, the Western District of Washington concluded that a multi-level marketing beauty company sufficiently alleged that it exercised reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of its training materials, and network salespeople and contact lists, despite the salespeople using their personal Facebook accounts, and despite making the training materials available to a Facebook group comprising thousands of members. Accordingly, the court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss with respect to defendants’ alleged trade secret misappropriation in violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act.

Plaintiff, Tori Belle Cosmetics LLC (“Belle Cosmetics”), sells its cosmetics and false eyelashes through a network of salespeople, allowing each salesperson to earn a portion of any revenue generated by any salespeople they recruit to join their sales network, i.e., a multi-level marketing business. Defendants are five former network salespeople of Belle Cosmetics, who plaintiff alleges, helped design and launch a competing product line for a company called Juvanae LLC. Belle Cosmetics alleges its trade secrets include, inter alia, lists containing contact information of customers and network salespeople including in the form of social media contacts, and training materials in the form of videos, photos, informational posts, webinars and other instructional materials that it makes available to thousands of its network salespeople through a Facebook group called “Team Lash Out.” Continue Reading Multi-Level Marketing Company Sufficiently Alleges Reasonable Efforts Despite Posting Trade Secret Materials to Thousands

Tangibly launched in February as a solution for companies to manage their trade secrets. Tangibly offers two distinct products: (1) a cloud-based platform that provides a dashboard where users can manage their assets and associated people and (2) a platform designed to make it easy for companies to execute and track NDAs.

Tangibly’s founder and CEO Tom Londergan said that Tangibly is architected around five questions companies should be able to answer regarding their trade secrets: Continue Reading New Platform Launches to Manage a Company’s Trade Secrets

Crowell & Moring presented a webinar discussing the most influential trade secret cases from 2021 along with new legal developments, including non-compete legislation and trade secret maintenance.

Partner Astor Heaven and Counsel Raija Horstman kicked off the conversation to discuss modern trade secret protection under the DTSA and the biggest damages from jury verdicts in 2021. Counsel Christine Hawes gave an overview of recent federal and state non-compete legislation, and Associate Dalton Hughes wrapped up the webinar by covering new legal implications for maintaining and identifying trade secrets. Continue Reading Crowell & Moring Webinar Recap: “2021 Trade Secrets Year in Review and What Lies Ahead”

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

In October, we published a blog post describing how trade secret claims filed by AbbVie were dismissed by the Northern District of Illinois for lack of personal jurisdiction over AbbVie’s former employee in Singapore and the competitor that poached him, Alvotech of Iceland. At that time, we thought AbbVie might replead to keep its trade secret claims in Federal District Court. AbbVie chose instead to appeal the District Court’s dismissal to the Seventh Circuit.

In addition, AbbVie has now pursued a second route—one that is becoming more and more common for global corporations claiming injury from trade secret misappropriation: AbbVie has also filed a Section 337 Complaint to the International Trade Commission (“ITC”), seeking to block imports of Alvotech’s biosimilar of AbbVie’s Humira arthritis treatment. Unlike the Federal Court action, the Section 337 Complaint is against both Alvotech and Teva (Israel) as a commercialization partner. Continue Reading AbbVie Turns Next to the U.S. International Trade Commission in Biosimilar Trade Secret Row

On October 29, 2021, the District of Delaware allowed Park Lawn Corporation to continue with its trade secret claims against fellow cemetery management competitor, PlotBox, Inc., holding that the competitor only needed to have a “reason to know” improper means were used to access alleged trade secrets, based on the position of the individual feeding them the secrets.

Both Park Lawn and PlotBox develop technological solutions to manage cemetery plot placement methods, using software to facilitate mapping of gravestones electronically. This software helps automate cemetery design plans and expedites managerial tasks. The lawsuit also states that Park Lawn planned to license the trade secrets in the software to others in the industry. This plan was eventually disrupted by the Chief Executive Officer of Park Lawn, who was allegedly feeding the trade secret information to PlotBox, which also tried to hire on Park Lawn’s Chief Technology Officer. Park Lawn sued under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”). Continue Reading Cemetery Company’s Trade Secret Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss by Reasonable Interference of Misappropriation after CEO Fed Competitor Information

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