Fifth Circuit Revisits Copyright Preemption of Trade Secret Law

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently revisited the issue of the Copyright Law preemption of trade secrets claims in Spear Marketing, Inc. v. Bancorpsouth Bank. The decision not only resolved the scope of Copyright Law preemption in the Fifth Circuit, but also made clear that the Fifth Circuit “join[s] the majority position” to hold that state law claims based on ideas fixed in tangible media are preempted by §301(a). The decision creates greater clarity and uniformity in Copyright Law preemption and should help litigants avoid wasting resources by filing actions based on state law claims that are preempted. Read More

500,000 Lines of Source Code: The New “Intangible Property”

Sergey Aleynikov’s six-year trade secret odyssey through all possible configurations of litigation, civil and criminal, federal and state, may at long last have come to an end after the New York Supreme Court recently overturned his only surviving criminal conviction for unlawful use of secret scientific material. We here at Trade Secrets Watch have closely tracked Aleynikov’s journey, recently reporting on his newest victory, and previously covering his convoluted trials and tribulations. In particular, prior to the recent New York Supreme Court decision, the Second Circuit overturned Aleynikov’s convictions under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) and the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA), which also led to a change in the EEA legislation. Read More

Hacking Your Rivals – Corporate Espionage in Major League Baseball

As we approach the dog days of summer, baseball season is again in full bloom. We previously discussed old-fashioned sign stealing in the context of teams trying to gain a competitive advantage during an actual game. But it appears these hijinks have evolved in today’s electronic world. As the New York Times first reported, the FBI and Department of Justice prosecutors are investigating front-office personnel for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of Major League Baseball’s most beloved franchises, for allegedly infiltrating the internal network of the Houston Astros. Read More

Flash Boy’s Conviction Thrown Out—Again

In a stunning victory for the former Goldman Sachs programmer, New York State Justice Daniel Conviser threw out Sergey Aleynikov’s jury conviction on state law charges that he stole intellectual property from Goldman. Trade Secrets Watch has extensively covered this story, most recently reporting the start of Aleynikov’s new trial, but missing out on a (later-dismissed) juror’s tale of an errant avocado. Read More

Texas Federal Court: Copyright Law Doesn’t Preempt Trade Secrets Claim Where “Extra” Elements Exist

We’ve blogged on trade secret preemption before (here and here, for instance), but we’ve usually focused on trade secrets claims preempting other types of claims, and not the other way around.

But, as the cowboy in the cult-classic film The Big Lebowski noted, “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.” So, this time, we are discussing a recent case that involved the question of when trade secret claims are preempted by Copyright Law. Read More

One Step Closer: European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee Approves Trade Secret Directive

As Trade Secrets Watch has previously reported, new rules regarding the protection of trade secrets are on the horizon for the European Union. In November 2013, the European Commission announced a proposed Directive on trade secrets and confidential information. Around six months later, in May 2014, the Council of the European Union agreed on a revised draft Directive. Reception of the Trade Secrets Directive has been mixed. Read More

For Here or To Go? Senators Introduce Bill to Ban Noncompete Agreements, Increase Mobility For Sandwich Makers and Other Low-Wage Workers

Congress is getting into the non-compete business.  Citing the use of non-compete agreements by companies such as Jimmy John’s sandwich shops, Senate Democrats recently introduced a bill—called the Mobility and Opportunity for Vulnerable Employees (MOVE) Act—that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to prohibit the use of non-compete agreements for low-wage employees. Read More

Securing your Network: Claiming Contacts as Trade Secrets

The paradigmatic trade secret is something that is obviously technical, such as source code or the formula for Coke.  Though trade secrets protection is not limited to technical trade secrets, it can sometimes be tricky to claim trade secrecy over non-technical trade secrets, such as customer or employee contact lists, that are commercially valuable yet may seem more accessible and therefore less secret.  California Code of Civil Procedure Section 2019.210 compounds the issue by requiring a plaintiff to make a detailed disclosure of trade secrets as a precondition to frame the discovery to come.  Section 2019.210 therefore immediately places an often-challenging decision upon the plaintiff—selecting what it should claim as trade secrets in litigation. Read More

The New Space Race: Protecting Trade Secrets on the Final Frontier

Space: The final frontier.  For millennia, people have wanted to explore the great unknown of outer space, and series like Star Trek and Star Wars continue to our fuel our fantasies about what lies beyond our stratosphere.  This fascination, as well as countries’ desires to maintain their military prowess, led to the First Space Race after World War II.  Today, while NASA’s dominance may have fizzled out, private companies have embarked on a commercialized space race to gain market dominance from their designs. Indeed, the House of Representatives recently passed the SPACE Act to enable commercial space mining activities. Read More

Fighting Back: Identifying Risks Posed by an Angry Current or Former Employee

Something lost is always in the last place you look (by definition).  It can also sometimes be in the first.

Although technology has made it possible for outsiders to manipulate and infiltrate your company’s systems and obtain confidential and trade secret information in novel and subtle ways, a lingering, persistent threat to a company’s confidential information and trade secret comes from unhappy employees, both during the time of their employ and after separation. Read More