Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA)

2020 saw a marked uptick in unfair import investigations at the International Trade Commission (ITC), with an especially strong close to the year: eight new complaints in December alone brought the year’s total to 62 new complaints to the Commission, well above the ten-year average of 49. Complaints alleging trade secret misappropriation rose particularly, as the ITC becomes increasingly popular due to its speed, jurisdiction and unique remedies.  While just five investigations solely of trade secrets were instituted in the five years of 2011-2015, fifteen such investigations were instituted in the next five years of 2016-2020, including five in 2020 alone.[1]

Continue Reading Unfair Import Investigations Rise at the U.S. ITC in 2020—Particularly as to Trade Secrets

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

On September 2, 2020, a Southern District of California judge granted Defendant Road Runner Sports, Inc.’s motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff, Profade Apparel, LLC, failed to state a trade secret misappropriation claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”).

At Road Runner’s request, Profade designed a “Trigonomic Arch Support Sock” for sale in Road Runner running stores.  But, after ordering just a few small batches of the socks, Road Runner allegedly stopped buying the socks from Profade.  According to Profade, Road Runner then contracted with a separate vendor to manufacture socks using Profade’s design.

In asserting a DTSA claim, Profade described its trade secrets as “proprietary and confidential information regarding the development, design, and manufacture of the Trigonomic Arch Support Sock.”  It also claimed Road Runner misappropriated the “roadmap” for producing the Trigonomic Arch Support Sock.  To support these allegations, Profade attached a contract between the parties to its complaint.  The contract contemplated the parties exchanging confidential information relating to the socks’ design and production.
Continue Reading Beep, Beep: Road Runner Escapes DTSA Claim, for Now

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

A Kansas District Court judge recently dismissed a trade secrets misappropriation action between two competing livestock nutrition companies.

In Biomin Am. Inc. v. Lesaffre Yeast Corp., Plaintiff Biomin America, Inc. (“Biomin”) sued competitor Lesaffre Yeast Corporation (“Lesaffre”) and two former Biomin employees who now work for Lesaffre, asserting trade secret misappropriation under the Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, 18 U.S.C. § 1836 (“DTSA”) as well as a handful of state law claims, including breach of contract, tortious interference, civil conspiracy, and unfair competition.

Specifically, Biomin alleged that the two employees misappropriated trade secrets and violated restrictive covenants contained within their Biomin employment agreements by soliciting Biomin employees and customers and marketing Lesaffre’s competing products at a lower price.
Continue Reading Livestock Feed Trade Secrets Case Put Out to Pasture

A trade secrets spat between rival self-driving car companies WeRide Corp. and AllRide.AI Inc. has ended in settlement, but not before the Northern District of California imposed terminating sanctions against the defendant AllRide for its “staggering” spoliation of evidence when it intentionally purged emails and email accounts, wiped laptops and servers, and corrupted key source code.

The suit began in late 2018, when WeRide brought claims against Jing Wang (its former CEO), Kun Huang (its former Head of Hardware Technology), and AllRide, the competing company started by Wang and Huang. The claims included trade secrets allegations under the Defend Trade Secrets Act and the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act, along with claims for defamation and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. WeRide accused Wang, who left WeRide to launch AllRide, of soliciting Huang to join him at his new company, and accused both of stealing WeRide’s trade secrets and immediately using them at AllRide. In April 2019 the Court granted WeRide a preliminary injunction that specifically prohibited Wang, Huang, and AllRide from destroying relevant documents, and ordered Huang to make several electronic devices available for inspection by WeRide. But in October 2019, WeRide moved the Court for sanctions, claiming that AllRide had destroyed emails and key source code. Central to WeRide’s motion was the accusation that AllRide had allowed its email system to continue to implement a 90-day automatic deletion policy, resulting in the destruction of thousands of potentially relevant emails. WeRide also accused AllRide of deleting six email accounts and the source code it supposedly developed to compete with WeRide.
Continue Reading Autonomous Vehicle Competitors Resolve Trade Secrets Case Colored by “Staggering” Spoliation

One of the more challenging questions in many complex trade secret cases is: When should a plaintiff be required to identify its alleged trade secrets, and with what level of specificity? This question is not answered by the Defend Trade Secrets Act or (in most instances) state trade secret statutes, and case law on this

On June 15, Crowell & Moring hosted a trade secrets webinar, “What the New Federal Trade Secrets Law Means for Your Clients.” The panelists, Mark Klapow, Mark Romeo, Mike Songer, and Vince Galluzzo provided an overview Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), signed by President Obama in May. The panelists also discussed how the courts are

On Wednesday November 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the pending Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015, S. 1890. We have previously reported on the Act, which will create a federal civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation, which includes an ex parte seizure provision.

The hearing began with Chairman Grassley making opening comments about the importance of trade secrets protection and meeting the increased threats of misappropriation in this global and mobile world. Each of the four witnesses then gave opening statements, followed by a question and answer period in which several members of the Committee took part. The witnesses included DuPont’s Chief IP Counsel Karen Cochran, Corning’s Chief IP Counsel Tom Beall, and Professor Sharon Sandeen (who opposes the Act). There were several notable moments at the hearing:

  • Ms. Cochran, holding up a Kevlar® bulletproof vest, explained that DuPont’s experience in the Kolon case (in which Crowell & Moring represented DuPont) helped inform DuPont of the need for the Act. Specifically, she explained, (i) the need for assured access to federal courts in technology based trade secret cases and (ii) the need for access to the court to immediately halt the further dissemination of trade secrets and evidence destruction.


Continue Reading DuPont, Corning, and Others Speak Out in Support of Defend Trade Secrets Act at Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing

The momentum for federal trade secrets legislation appears to be growing with last week’s introduction of the “Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015” in both chambers of Congress. The bill, H.R. 3326 in the House and S. 1890 in the Senate, would create a uniform federal civil action for trade secret misappropriation, which is currently litigated exclusively in state courts and subject to the States’ various laws. Such a uniform federal civil action seeks to eliminate the splits of authority on trade secret law among the States and the resulting uncertainty about enforcement of trade secrets.  While this is not Congress’ first attempt at civil federal trade secret law, the stakes here are high:  it has been reported that publicly traded U.S. companies maintain a combined $5 trillion in trade-secret-related assets, with the annual economic loss attributable to trade secret theft estimated to be between $167 and $503 billion. These staggering numbers, combined with a recent surge in cyber-attacks and trade secret theft, have lawmakers considering the issue anew.
Continue Reading The Growing Momentum for Federal Trade Secrets Legislation