trade secret misappropriation

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

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

As we have previously posted, proper trade secret identification is often a key issue for parties bringing or defending against trade secret misappropriation claims. The precise standard of identification varies across jurisdictions and continues to evolve, but trade secret identification often functions as a gating issue early in a case. A recent decision from the Third Circuit serves as reminder that failure to properly identify purported trade secrets may not just be fatal to a party’s claim, but may render a preliminary injunction unenforceable.
Continue Reading Half-Baked Trade Secret Identification Leads Third Circuit to Vacate Preliminary Injunction

The Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion that serves as a reminder of the importance of developing robust affirmative evidence of damages suffered as a consequence of trade secret misappropriation, including the causation of those damages. In Joshua David Mellberg LLC v. Will, the plaintiffs filed an action against its former employees and their new company for misappropriation of trade secrets and unjust enrichment. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Reminds Plaintiffs That Trade Secret Misappropriation Damages Without Adequate Proof of Causation Are Not Enough

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 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

A recently introduced U.S. Senate bill demonstrates both the United States’ continued focus on foreign government-sponsored trade secret misappropriation and the International Trade Commission’s (“ITC”) potential untapped ability to swiftly protect intellectual property (“IP”) owners against this illegal conduct under Section 337.

This summer, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced the “Stopping and Excluding Chinese Rip-offs and Exports with United States Trade Secrets Act of 2021,” also known as the “SECRETS Act of 2021.” If passed, the bill would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to fortify the ITC’s power to protect IP owners against trade secret misappropriation as well as work to expedite the investigatory and exclusionary processes.
Continue Reading Legislation Would Bolster ITC Power Against Foreign Government-Sponsored Trade Secret Misappropriation

The District Court for the Southern District of California held that despite not alleging direct evidence of misappropriation, a complaint’s allegations about a company’s lack of experience in the particular industry coupled with its purported behavior during business negotiations were sufficient to state a claim that an allegedly competing product misappropriated trade secrets under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and to defeat a motion to dismiss. According to the Complaint, Applied Biological Laboratories (ABL), a biotechnology company that researches, develops, manufacturers, and distributes healthcare products, developed an antiviral nasal technology using immunoglobulin G, a common antibody in body fluids. ABL’s antiviral nasal spray is allegedly effective against rhinoviruses and novel respiratory pathogens, such as COVID-19. With an application to the mouth and nose, the antiviral spray allegedly aids in naturally flushing pathogens and foreign particles in the digestive tract.

Continue Reading Curiosity Killed A Motion to Dismiss: A Biotech Company’s Business Negotiations Turn into a Trade Secrets Fight