The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) was enacted in 2016. The DTSA allows an owner of a trade secret to sue in federal court when seeking relief for trade secret misappropriation related to a product or service in interstate or foreign commerce, and does not preempt any state law. A goal of the DTSA is to “provide a single, national standard for trade secret misappropriation with clear rules and predictability for everyone involved.” S. Rep. No. 114-220, at 14 (2016). For the majority of the time, this goal is upheld. Aside from establishing a relation to a product or service in interstate or foreign commerce, state trade secret laws are typically almost identical to the DTSA. However, if states trade secret laws do differ from the DTSA, they are usually in regard to remedy.
A recent decision by the Second Circuit reminds litigants that a party asserting a trade secret misappropriation claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), or New York law, must detail in a pleading “the “reasonable measures” employed to maintain the secrecy of the alleged trade secret. In Turret Labs USA, Inc. v. CargoSprint, LLC, No. 21-952, Dkt. No 106-1 (2nd Cir. Mar. 9, 2022), the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of a motion to dismiss, concluding that plaintiff Turret Labs failed to adequately allege that reasonable measures were taken because, although there was an agreement giving the plaintiff’s customer exclusive access to the alleged trade secret, this agreement (as well as all surrounding security policy documents) failed to contractually obligate the customer to maintain confidentiality of the alleged secret.…
The Sedona Conference, Working Group 12 on Trade Secrets, has released for public comment its guidance on the governance and management of trade secrets. This valuable Commentary outlines the inherent challenges in developing a trade secret protection program that aligns with a business’s goals and measurable objectives.
The Commentary recommends businesses focus on the following factors to evaluate trade secret protection programs:
- The size, maturity, industry, and location of the business;
- The nature and value of a business’s trade secrets;
- How the business can leverage its trade secrets to commercialize new services and extract additional value, maintain its competitive advantage, and incentivize innovation;
- The different measures available to protect the business’s trade secrets and their varying effectiveness; and
- The extent and cost of measures taken and the rationale for measures not taken.
In the end, the Commentary advocates an “integrated enterprise” approach to trade secret governance in order to accommodate multiple and potentially conflicting corporate interests. This approach requires several steps:…
Continue Reading The Sedona Conference Solicits Public Comment on its Commentary on the Governance and Management of Trade Secrets
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
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
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., 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
In March 2021, AbbVie, Inc. and AbbVie Biotechnology Ltd. (“AbbVie”) sued rival pharmaceutical company Alvotech hf. (“Alvotech”) for trade secret misappropriation under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) and the Illinois Trade Secret Act. In May, Alvotech filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for both failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction. And just a few days ago, the North District of Illinois Court issued an order finding that it lacked jurisdiction over AbbVie’s causes of action, and dismissed the case.
Continue Reading AbbVie Trade Secret Claims Fail at Pleading Stage for Lack of Jurisdiction
The Supreme Court recently denied a petition for certiorari by Monib Zirvi and others, in which petitioners sought Supreme Court intervention regarding the notice required to trigger the statute of limitations clock for trade secret misappropriation claims. The case is Zirvi et al. v. Flatley et al. (Case No. 20-1612). You can review the petition here. The case arises out of a 2018 lawsuit, in which four self-described inventors of DNA Arrays brought suit against Illumina, a “multibillion-dollar, global player in genetic analysis,” alleging that Illumina and its associates conspired to steal Petitioner’s trade secrets and covertly conceal the information in patent applications. According to Petitioners, the DNA Arrays at issue are now used in the detection of cancer, inherited genetic defects, and viral infections such as COVID-19.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on Notice Required to Trigger Statute of Limitations for Trade Secret Misappropriation Claims
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