trade secret misappropriation

A new indictment alleging misappropriation of U.S. oil and gas trade secrets by a Chinese energy company, its U.S.-based affiliate, and an executive is another example in a recent string of prosecutions for trade secrets theft involving China, a topic that we have covered on the blog here.

Continue Reading Grand Jury Indicts Chinese Energy Company, U.S. Oil and Gas Affiliate, and Chinese National on Trade Secrets Charges

Why litigate a case for months or years, only to arrive at a settlement that would have been possible before the case began?  In many cases, neither litigant would choose this approach, but it happens quite often nonetheless.  According to Lex Machina data, about 60% of trade secret cases filed in federal court in the last decade ended in either a voluntary (8%) or stipulated (52%) dismissal.  Of course, many of these settlements were likely informed by discovery and the arguments made by the parties in court.  But in other cases, resolutions probably could have been reached before both parties incurred unnecessary litigation expenses.

Continue Reading Trade Secret Strategies: Using Standstill Agreements to Resolve Disputes Out of Court

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 October 2, 2020, a federal judge for the Central District of California denied a motion for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) to enjoin the Discovery Channel from airing “The Lost Lincoln,” a documentary about an allegedly long-lost photograph of Abraham Lincoln on his deathbed.  Only 130 photographs of Lincoln are known to exist.

Plaintiffs Jerry Spolar and Terry Williamson own the photograph, known as an ambrotype, and spent years researching and authenticating it.  In 2018, they partnered with Whitny and James Braun to make a documentary about the photo and shared the details of their authentication efforts with the Brauns pursuant to non-disclosure agreements.  The project fell through at first, but late last month, Plaintiffs learned that their former partners had created a documentary about the photograph for the Discovery Channel.
Continue Reading Court Denies TRO in “The Lost Lincoln” Misappropriation Case

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

On August 13, 2020, a Delaware District Court judge granted Defendant Azstrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP’s motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff Lithero, LLC failed to plead a plausible trade secret misappropriation claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”).

Lithero’s complaint alleged that Azstrazeneca misappropriated Lithero’s confidential and proprietary information regarding Lithero’s Automated Regulatory Assistant (“LARA”), including information regarding how it is trained and the process by which it learns, as well as “years of past research and development, the current capabilities of LARA coming as a result of that research and development, and detailed plans for future areas of growth.” But none of these allegations were sufficient to survive dismissal at the pleadings stage.


Continue Reading Too Much or Never Enough? Another Trade Secret Misappropriation Claim Dismissed

On July 21, 2020, the First Circuit clarified the high burden that a plaintiff faces when asserting that certain types of business materials are protected trade secrets. In TLS Mgmt. & Mktg. Servs., LLC v. Rodriguez-Toledo, No. 19-1104, 2020 WL 4187246, at *6 (1st Cir. July 21, 2020), the court reversed a district court’s bench trial verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a trade secret misappropriation case on the ground that the business materials at issue did not constitute trade secrets. Plaintiff TLS Management and Marketing Services, LLC, a Puerto Rico-based tax planning and consulting firm, argued that the defendants misappropriated two of its protectable trade secrets: (1) a portion of its “Capital Preservation Reports,” which contained tax recommendations specific to an individual TLS client based on an analysis of applicable statutes and regulations; and (2) its “U.S. Possession Strategy,” which consisted of a scheme that would allow Plaintiff’s clients to take advantage of a lower tax rate on outsourced services by contracting with Plaintiff and buying its shares.

Defendant Rodriguez-Toledo was the founder of Plaintiff’s competitor, Defendant ASG Accounting Solutions Group, Inc., and for some time worked for Plaintiff TLS as a Managing Director under a subcontract between Plaintiff and ASG. After departing from TLS, Rodriguez-Toledo provided tax advice to Plaintiff’s former clients regarding how to avoid certain tax penalties triggered by terminating their relationships with TLS, which TLS’s U.S. Possession Strategy was also intended to avoid. Rodriguez-Toledo also allegedly downloaded the Capital Preservation Reports from TLS’s Dropbox account without authorization before he left TLS. TLS filed suit against both ASG and Rodriguez-Toledo for misappropriation of the two trade secrets and violation of a nondisclosure agreement. The district court found they had misappropriated both trade secrets following a bench trial, and the defendants appealed.

Continue Reading First Circuit Reverses Misappropriation Verdict, Citing Lack of Specificity

A recent case is a helpful reminder to companies with valuable intellectual property to be diligent in protecting trade secrets and monitoring compliance by employees with access to this confidential information.

On June 15, 2020, Ryan, LLC (“Ryan”) filed a lawsuit in Texas state court against S.K. Thakkar (“Thakkar”), who was employed by a company acquired by Ryan, and Ernst & Young, LLP (“Ernst & Young”), his new employer, seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction based on alleged (1) trade secret misappropriation, (2) tortious interference with contract, and (3) breach of contract.
Continue Reading Misappropriation Claims Brought Over Tax Trade Secrets

The legal saga between L’Oreal USA Inc. and Olaplex LLC (“Olaplex”) over a hair-coloring product continues. In August 2019, a Delaware federal jury found that L’Oreal misappropriated Olaplex’s trade secrets, willfully infringed two Olaplex patents, and breached a nondisclosure agreement. The jury awarded Olaplex $22.3 million for willful infringement of trade secrets, $22.3 million for breach of contract, and $47 million for patent infringement. On March 24, 2020, the court entered a $66.2 million final judgment including attorneys’ fees and prejudgment interest.

Earlier this month, L’Oreal appealed and asked the Federal Circuit to reverse this judgment based on purported errors by the district court in (1) improperly excluding two witnesses and (2) improperly granting summary judgment on patent infringement.
Continue Reading L’Oreal Appeals $66 Million Trade Secret Judgment

On June 3, 2020, the Fourth Court of Appeals of Texas overturned a jury verdict awarding HouseCanary, Inc. (“HouseCanary”) $740 million in damages for trade secret theft and fraud against Title Source, Inc., now known as Amrock.

Amrock and HouseCanary are competitors in the real estate sector. Amrock provides title insurance, property valuations, and settlement services in real estate transactions. HouseCanary is a real estate analytics company that developed software to determine property values. HouseCanary agreed to provide this software to Amrock, and, according to HouseCanary, Amrock reversed engineered it. After the relationship between the two broke down, Amrock sued HouseCanary for breach of contract and fraud, and HouseCanary counterclaimed for breach of contract, fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets, among other claims. The jury found for HouseCanary, awarding it compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees.
Continue Reading Faulty Jury Instruction Wipes Out $740 Million Verdict