Trade Secrets

PILLOW TALK: A Threat to Trade Secrets?

It turns out that, even in romantic relationships, some things are best kept secret.  On July 7, 2017, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging that a former executive disclosed confidential information to a romantic partner who happens to be an executive of one of Teva’s direct competitors.

Teva alleges that during multiple years of her employment, Defendant Barinder Sandhu, its former senior director of regulatory affairs, shared trade secrets and other confidential information with Defendant Jeremy Desai, Apotex’s president and CEO.  Teva asserts that Sandhu violated her confidentiality agreement and several company policies by:

  • emailing confidential documents directly to Desai at Apotex;
  • emailing confidential documents to her personal Gmail account in order to share with Desai without Teva’s detection;
  • using USB flash drives to copy confidential files from her work laptop;
  • verbally communicating and providing printed copies of confidential information; and
  • backing up confidential files to a cloud-based drive for nearly two years.

Teva contends that Desai and/or co-defendant Apotex used the misappropriated information to gain a competitive advantage: Desai allegedly received product development information relating to “Product X,” a generic drug being developed by Teva, which Apotex employees discussed and used to speed regulatory approval and advance the market position of Apotex’s competing product.  Among other claims, Teva sued for violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and state Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Since an employer can’t control the romantic relationships of its employees, what can an employer do to minimize the harm from betrayal by a trusted employee blinded by love?

Teva’s own actions provide good examples.  According to the complaint, Teva had a confidentiality agreement in place with Sandhu (giving it the right to an injunction and fees) along with policies governing confidential information, data privacy, documents and records, and computer systems and security, as well as a code of business conduct.  Teva also contends that it used multiple means to protect its trade secret information, including limiting dissemination to need-to-know employees, limiting electronic access to documents, using password protection, and maintaining building security.  While these measures may not have ultimately prevented the wrongful disclosure of Teva’s information in the first place, they are likely to give Teva an advantage in litigation.

Pooley’s Corner: Was America’s Industrial Revolution Based on Trade Secret Theft?

When I was in Geneva trying to engage developing countries about the value of robust IP laws, occasionally I heard a response like this: “What hypocrites you are! The U.S. economy got its start by stealing from abroad. Why should today’s poor nations be denied the same opportunity to catch up?” The argument stung enough that I thought I should check out the real story. Here’s what I found.

On an early September day in 1789, Samuel Slater, 21 years old, boarded a ship in London to begin a voyage to New York. His family didn’t know he was doing this. He presented himself as a simple laborer, a farm hand. He was lying. Hidden in his pocket were his only official papers, identifying him as a recently released apprentice to a cotton mill. READ MORE

Amendments to Texas UTSA Bring it Closer in Line with DTSA, but Differences Remain

American and Texas state flags flying on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin Amendments to Texas UTSA Bring it Closer in Line with DTSA, but Differences Remain

(Editors’ note: Thanks to Orrick summer associate, Ruben Sindahl, for his help with this blog post.)

Just four years after the Lone Star State ended its holdout by becoming the 48th State to adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Texas passed a bill to amend its enactment. The bill was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on May 19, 2017, and will take effect on September 1, 2017.

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Above the Clouds: Jeweler’s Trade Secret Spat Highlights Risk of Employee-Controlled Cloud Storage

Rendering of a Cloud computing, Cloud Computing Concept Above the Clouds: Jeweler’s Trade Secret Spat Highlights Risk of Employee-Controlled Cloud Storage

We have discussed before the importance of maintaining internal policies and procedures to protect the security and integrity of cloud-based repositories. A recent case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland illustrates that this continues to be an important issue—particularly for companies who store their crown jewels on the cloud.

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Courts Still Heavily Favor Rule 65 TROs Over DTSA Ex Parte Seizures

Temporary Restraining Order acronoym in front of gavel image Courts Still Heavily Favor Rule 65 TROs Over DTSA Ex Parte Seizures

The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 was signed into law by President Obama on May 11, 2016. While the DTSA has been on the books for over a year, relatively few courts have addressed the ex parte seizure provision and even fewer have actually granted a seizure under the DTSA.  This is likely due to the DTSA’s requirement that courts order property seizures only in extraordinary circumstances.  In other words, courts are hesitant to grant DTSA ex parte seizure requests unless it is clear that the alleged misappropriator would disobey a TRO or preliminary injunction, or otherwise destroy, move, or hide trade secrets.  Courts continue to favor FRCP 65 TROs and preliminary injunctions to protect trade secrets from disclosure or destruction.  Under FRCP 65, courts can issue TROs and preliminary injunctions, but cannot order U.S. Marshalls to seize property from a defendant without notice.  The following cases are illustrative.

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A “Virtual” Home Is Not a Home: Court Sanctions Plaintiffs for “Reckless Disregard” in Deciding the Proper Forum for Their Litigation

Toy model house on pier by water A “Virtual” Home Is Not a Home: Court Sanctions Plaintiffs for “Reckless Disregard” in Deciding the Proper Forum for Their Litigation

The following blog post is courtesy of our sister blog, NorCal IP.

Usually, one benefit of being a plaintiff is deciding in what forum to pursue litigation.  Generally, even a foreign-based plaintiff may pursue litigation in a U.S. forum where a defendant may be found or in which there is a substantial connection to the litigation.  There are, however, limits on a plaintiff’s choice of forum, and a recent decision in Tapgerine LLC v. 50Mango, Inc. demonstrates that pushing those limits may result in sanctions.

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Pooley’s Corner: What Divorce Court Teaches About Trade Secret Litigation

I still remember the day I decided never to do another divorce case. My client called to tell me that her ex was taking the kids to his mother’s house where she would look for holes in their socks and then rip them with her fingers. This surely was grounds for a restraining order! No, it wasn’t, I insisted.

Back then we accepted any kind of case that involved a courtroom: accidents, real estate, criminal, contracts, and “domestic relations.” It was the divorces that often involved the worst behaviors, seeming to require more therapy than legal advice.

These were also the early days of Silicon Valley, and it wasn’t long before commercial litigation, and trade secret cases in particular, came to fill up my calendar. Hardly a week went by without a group leaving to do a start-up or join the competition, provoking a lawsuit. After 30 or 40 of these, a common theme emerged: somebody always had done something foolish, like overheating the photocopier or bragging about how they were going to destroy their old employer. So it seemed to me that if people just understood the rules, they would never get into these scrapes. But the same kinds of mistakes were made even by experienced, sophisticated actors, and the lawsuits kept coming. I was baffled.

Then I married Laura-Jean, who is a psychotherapist. When she learned about my trade secret cases, it was immediately clear to her what was going on. These people were distracted—and sometimes blinded—by their emotions. And that’s when it hit me: trade secret disputes were a lot like divorces, and if you could understand the emotional forces at work, you could do a better job for your clients. The analogy wasn’t perfect, because people choosing to end their marriages were often consumed by their feelings to a level that didn’t usually apply in a business context. But the parallels were striking, and illuminating. READ MORE

ECONOMIC ESPIONAGE AND PROTECTING TRADE SECRETS: Ninth Circuit Holds That Reasonable Measures to Guard Technology are Sufficient

How can you protect your trade secrets from a vast and well-concealed international effort to steal those secrets? What constitutes a “reasonable” effort to protect that information where at least one competitor may already have the information?  The Ninth Circuit recently opined on these matters in the ongoing saga of U.S. v. Liew.

In 2014, Walter Liew and his company, USA Performance Technology, Inc., were convicted of multiple offenses, including claims under the Economic Espionage Act and conveying misappropriated trade secrets to a third party. The trade secrets related to DuPont’s technology for producing titanium dioxide, which is used in a wide range of products such as paint and Oreo cookies. READ MORE

ROADBLOCK IN PLACE: Court Grants Limited Preliminary Injunction in Waymo v. Uber

Imagine preparing for that big meeting on your way to work, while you ride along in your car—without the need for a driver. What sounds like it might be out of a sci-fi movie, may actually be the not-so-distant future.  Such technology is at the center of the Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc. litigation. The self-driving technology at issue hasn’t been the only intriguing part of this case–the litigation itself has been action packed, and we’ve been watching closely. As you’ll recall from previous posts, Waymo alleged that, while working at Waymo, its star engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded over 14,000 confidential files before leaving the company to start his own competing business, Ottomoto, which was later acquired by Uber.  The twists and turns of this fast-paced litigation have included Uber’s denied petition for arbitration, Fifth Amendment invocations by Levandowski and his failed appeal, a criminal referral by Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California, and now an order granting a “limited” preliminary injunction blocking any participation of Levandowski in Uber’s self-driving car project. READ MORE

USPTO’s Second Trade Secrets Symposium Looks Back on First Year of DTSA and Ahead Toward Challenges of International Trade Secrets Protection

On May 8, 2017, the United States Patent and Trademark Office hosted its second event on trade secrets. When we covered the USPTO’s inaugural trade secrets symposium held in January 2015, there was a palpable sense among DC insiders that, at long last, federal trade secrets legislation was imminent.

Readers of this blog of course know the rest of that story: obviously the biggest change in the landscape since the last event was the passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.  In fact, the USPTO intentionally timed this event to fall near the one-year anniversary of the DTSA’s passage.

What else had changed in the last two years? To answer that question, I once again traveled to USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA to attend the symposium and provide TSW readers with the following report. READ MORE