Plaintiffs in trade secret cases are often torn between two conflicting interests: the need to state their trade secrets with enough specificity to survive a motion to dismiss, and the necessity of keeping their trade secrets confidential. In order to resolve this dilemma, plaintiffs often seek to file their complaints under seal, so that the contents are withheld from the public but still available to the parties and the court.

In deciding whether to seal a court filing, the court must balance the need for privacy against the public’s “general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” Nixon v. Warner Comm., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). In federal court, in order to succeed on a motion to seal, a plaintiff must state compelling reasons, supported by specific factual findings, that outweigh the public’s right of access to court filings and the public policies favoring disclosure of court documents. In re Hewlett-Packard Co., 2015 WL 8570883, *2 (N.D. Cal. 2015); see also Sherwin Williams Co. v. Courtesy Oldsmobile Cadillac, Inc., 2015 WL 8665601, *1 (E.D. Cal. 2015). State courts employ similar standards.  For example, in California, in order to seal a document the moving party must demonstrate: (1) There is an overriding interest that overcomes the right to public access to the record; (2) the overriding interest supports sealing the record; (3) there is a substantial probability that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed; (4) the proposed sealing is narrowly tailored; and (5) there is no less restrictive means to achieve the overriding interest. California Rule of Court 2.550(d).


Continue Reading Recent Decision Reinforces the Significance of Motions to Seal in Trade Secret Cases

Last week the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey dismissed a lawsuit brought by pipe-maker JM Manufacturing Co. Inc. against former JM quality assurance engineer John Hendrix and his counsel. JM had accused Hendrix and his counsel of improperly using stolen trade secrets documents and other confidential information to launch a False Claims Act (FCA) case against the company. The FCA is a federal law that imposes liability on individuals and companies who defraud governmental programs. The Superior Court refused to revive the lawsuit, finding that those claims should have been raised in California federal court with the underlying FCA claim.
Continue Reading Countersuit for Trade Secret Misappropriation Impermissible in the Face of FCA Claim Based on Trade Secret, New Jersey Appeals Court Holds

Last year saw many important trade secret developments in the court. Here is our Top 5:

1. DuPont v. Kolon

This case had it all. What appeared at first to be the actions of one disgruntled employee turned out to be a long-standing high-level initiative of Kolon to target former DuPont employees in order to develop its fledgling para-aramid fiber using the secrets behind industry standard Kevlar. There was spoliation, 400 page expert reports arguing all of DuPont’s trade secrets were disclosed in its own patents, antitrust counterclaims, criminal charges, Korean investigations, a two-month jury trial culminating in a damages award just shy of a billion dollars, an appeal, and finally—in 2015—resolution. This epic battle came to end with Kolon being criminally indicted, paying $275 million to DuPont in restitution, and settling the civil case under undisclosed terms. Read about it here.


Continue Reading 2015 Trade Secret Year in Review: Key Courtroom Developments

Last week, the California Court of Appeal issued a decision highlighting the need for employers, especially large employers with operations and employees in several states or countries, to take great care in drafting mandatory forum selection clauses and to always be aware of the relevant law in the chosen jurisdiction. In Richtek USA, Inc. v. UPI Semiconductor Corp., 2015 WL 7479125, a state Court of Appeal affirmed that a mandatory forum selection clause in an employment agreement is binding on both the employee and the employer.
Continue Reading Be Careful What You Wish For: The Importance of Forum Selection Clauses

Capitol Buidling 1
[via Flickr user Glyn Lowe Photoworks]

On Monday November 30, the House demonstrated its resolve to fight high-tech crime such as trade secret theft by passing the Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act (H.R. 3490). The Act formally establishes the National Computer Forensics Institute, which is located in Hoover, Alabama and has been operating since 2008. Under the Act, the Institute will:

  • Educate law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on (i) cyber and electronic crimes; (ii) methods for investigating such crimes, including forensically examining computers and mobile devices; and (iii) prosecutorial and judicial challenges related to such crimes and forensic examinations; and
  • Train law enforcement officers to (i) investigate cyber and electronic crimes; (ii) forensically examine computers and mobile devices; and (iii) respond to network intrusions.


Continue Reading Keeping Up with Cybercriminals: House Passes Bill to Formally Establish National Computer Forensics Institute

On October 26, a U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California issued an arrest warrant for two parties in a trade secrets dispute involving a water-splitting technology and formula. The two parties violated a court order from August which required them, among other things, to appear in court on October 26, and cease using the Internet to post messages regarding their alleged knowledge of plaintiff’s trade secret.
Continue Reading Theft of Trade Secret and Flouting of Court’s Injunction Results in Arrest Warrants

Crowell & Moring’s work on the DuPont v. Kolon matter, one of the largest trade secrets cases of its kind, was recognized at The American Lawyer’s third annual Global Legal Awards, winning “Global Dispute of the Year: U.S. Litigation.” The firm represented DuPont in recovering Kevlar® trade secrets stolen by a South Korean conglomerate. After

Earlier this month, in Ajaxo Inc. v. E*Trade Financial Corp., Case No. 1-00-CV-793529, the long-running dispute between Ajaxo Inc. and E-Trade over Ajaxo’s proprietary stock trading software took yet another turn following a two-part trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court.   In the latest round of this fight over trade secrets related to proprietary stock trading software, the California Court of Appeal delved into when a reasonably royalty may be recovered and the proof it takes to recover them.
Continue Reading Hammering a Hard Drive Instead of a Royalty Check

FBI Building Seal Cropped
[via Flickr user Gary Bartram]

One remarkable aspect of the resolution announced last week in the long-running DuPont-Kolon trade secrets dispute is the transfer of $275 million to our client DuPont through the criminal restitution process. This highlights an option for corporate victims of trade secrets theft that is too often overlooked – initiation of criminal proceedings in parallel with civil litigation.  In fact, in some cases, a criminal trade secrets theft investigation and prosecution may eliminate the need for costly civil litigation entirely.
Continue Reading Calling the Cops: Enforcing Trade Secret Rights Through Criminal Prosecution