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

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.,[1] 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

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

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

On August 24, 2021, the Northern District of California accepted the guilty pleas of the two co-founders of the Taiwanese biopharmaceutical start-up, JHL Biotech (now known as Eden Biologiccs) for trade secret theft and wire fraud. Pending sentencing, both face steep criminal penalties and possible prison sentences.

Chief Executive Officer Racho Jordanov and Chief Operating Officer Rose Lin were indicted for engaging in a fraudulent scheme to steal confidential and proprietary materials from competitor Genetech for over a decade. With these materials, JHL Biotech boosted its own, business because it was able to “cut corners, reduce costs, solve problems, save time, and otherwise accelerate product development timelines, ” alleged the Department of Justice in their indictment earlier this summer. Acting United States Attorney Hinds called the company a “nearly $1 billion Taiwanese unicorn built on a foundation of lies.”
Continue Reading Co-Founders of Taiwanese Biotech Company Plead Guilty to Trade Secret Theft as U.S. Cracks Down on Corporate Espionage

Changing Patent Protections

U.S. and foreign patent systems have suffered legislative and judicial reverses as
to subject matter eligibility for patenting, a rising bar of obviousness due to increasing skill of the art, insights aided by artificial intelligence (AI) tools, procedural artifacts for no-risk post grant invalidation by granting agencies, and awakening of once dormant

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

Recent United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) indictments of Chinese hackers provide a reminder that trade secrets and other intellectual property stored on databases are attractive targets to bad actors. The DOJ announced that seven international defendants were charged in connection with computer intrusion campaigns impacting more than 100 victims in the United States and abroad.

The victims of the cyberattacks included software development companies, computer hardware manufacturers, telecommunications providers, social media companies, video game companies, non-profit organizations, universities, think tanks, and foreign governments. The hacking facilitated the theft of source code, software code signing certificates, customer account data, and other valuable business information. These cyberattacks also enabled the defendants’ other criminal schemes, including ransomware attacks and “crypto-jacking” schemes, which involve the unauthorized use of victim computers to “mine” cryptocurrency.


Continue Reading DOJ Indictment of Chinese Hackers for Break-Ins at 100 Companies Reinforces The Importance of Protecting Trade Secrets and Implementing Security Protections

Not surprisingly given the hundreds of billions of dollars of American intellectual property lost to China each year, trade secret theft and China is a hot topic for the public and private sector alike.

On September 29, 2020 2:00 -3:00 pm EDT, Caroline Brown and Jim Stronski will share their thoughts on the latest developments