Trade Secrets

Thinly Pled Allegations of Trade Secret Misappropriation under DTSA Are Vulnerable to Dismissal

A dismissal with prejudice is a plaintiff’s worst fear realized. When it comes to alleging a proper claim for trade secret misappropriation, the Western District of Kentucky recently reminded plaintiffs just how critical it is to “kick the tires.” In Raben Tire Co., LLC v. McFarland, Case No. 5:16-cv-00141 (W.D. Ken.), plaintiff Raben Tire Co., LLC, alleged misappropriation of trade secrets against two former employees under the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1831 et seq., and the Kentucky Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“KUTSA”), Ky. Rev. Stat. § 365.880 et seq., along with a handful of additional common-law claims. READ MORE

Pooley’s Corner: How to Recruit and Hire While Avoiding Data Contamination

When we think about trade secrets, we usually focus on keeping our own data safe. But an even bigger risk comes from hiring employees who can infect our systems with confidential information from a competitor. Companies often learn this the hard way. Boeing’s hiring several managers from Lockheed led to a $615 million fine and indictments of the individuals. Hilton poached two Starwood executives to create a competing hotel brand, but they came with thousands of documents and prompted a lawsuit that killed the project and cost $150 million to settle. Recently, a similar situation at Zillow required a $130 million settlement. READ MORE

Trade Secret Misappropriation in the World of Driverless Cars: Google versus Uber

On Thursday, Waymo LLC sued Uber Technologies and Ottomotto LLC in federal court in the Northern District of California for: (1) violation of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act; (2) violation of California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act; (3) Patent Infringement; and (4) Violation of Section 17200 of California’s Business and Professions Code. Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. that specializes in self-driving cars.

According to Waymo’s complaint, one of its former managers, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded more than 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary files shortly before his resignation in January 2016.  Those files allegedly related, among other things, to Waymo’s proprietary LiDAR system, which, when mounted on a vehicle, “enable[s] a vehicle to ‘see’ its surroundings and thereby allow[s] a self-driving vehicle to detect traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists, and any other obstacles a vehicle must be able to see to drive safely.”

Waymo claims that it caught wind of the alleged misappropriation recently when one of its LiDAR component vendors inadvertently copied Waymo on an email depicting Uber’s LiDAR circuit board. According to Waymo, Uber’s LiDAR circuit board “bears a striking resemblance to Waymo’s own highly confidential and proprietary design and reflects Waymo trade secrets.”

Given the technology at issue and the players, this is a case that will be fascinating to watch. We’ll keep you posted.

Don’t Friend My Friends: Nonsolicitation Agreements Should Account for Social Media Strategies

As social media becomes an important part of many companies’ sales and branding strategies, issues relating to companies’ ability to protect their investments in such strategies are emerging. Indeed, this blog has previously covered whether LinkedIn contacts can qualify as trade secrets (answer: maybe). Another such issue, recently addressed in a district court in Idaho, is whether and to what extent a nonsolicitation agreement can restrict a former employee’s Facebook interactions with the former employer’s customers. READ MORE

Causing a Brouhaha: Trade Secrets Disputes in the Craft Beer Industry

In recent years, the craft beer craze has taken ahold of the country and has resulted in an explosion of new microbreweries and enthusiasts. Several websites, like BeerSmith, allow users to share recipes with others; other websites, like BrewCraft, sell their recipes for home brewing.  In fact, some craft beer aficionados have even created beer trading exchanges to secure their hard-to-find favorites.  Even when a popular beer is discontinued, other microbrewers look to fill the void left on everyone’s taste buds with beers of their own.  For instance, when Russian River’s legendary craft brew Pliny the Elder was pulled from certain markets, craft brew fans raced to find similarly tasting alternatives to quench their thirst.

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“It’s a Free Country, Right?” Court Declines to Enjoin Ex-Free Country Ltd. Employees From Contacting Customers on Purloined Contact List

Within days of each other, your clothing company―Free Country Ltd.―loses two employees who decamp to a rival to set up a competing apparel line.  You discover that just before leaving, they transferred some 50,000 documents to a personal account—customer orders, your master contact list, and product design information.  Incensed, you file a trade secrets lawsuit and seek an injunction prohibiting the thieves from soliciting your customers.  Their defense amounts to, “so what if we took the documents―it’s a free country!”  Easy win, right?  Wrong.  These are the facts of a recent trade secrets lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, in which the court denied the plaintiff’s request that its former employee defendants be prohibited from soliciting plaintiff’s customers. READ MORE

DTSA Immunity: A Plaintiff’s Dream Or A Burdensome Nightmare?

If you are a regular reader of TSW, you know we have been monitoring developments relating to the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA). While the Northern District of California was the first court to enter a written opinion under the DTSA, case law is continuing to develop across the country, including in the First Circuit. READ MORE

Wake Forest Leaks Scandal May Offer “Playbook” For Businesses Seeking Trade Secret Protection

After a long political season that took many twists and turns due in part to revelations from WikiLeaks, the holiday season finally arrived. For many, that meant family traditions, time away from work, and massive amounts of college football, thanks to the current litany of televised bowl games.

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Password Sharing Is Not a Crime, Ninth Circuit Reassures in Denial of Nosal’s Request for Rehearing

Since the early days of this blog, we’ve been covering the ongoing legal battle involving ex-Korn Ferry recruiter David Nosal as it winds its way through the courts. The latest chapter in this saga came on December 8, 2016, when a Ninth Circuit panel clarified that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) does not criminalize innocent password sharing, in a published opinion denying Nosal’s request for a rehearing en banc. READ MORE

Diamonds Are Forever, but Joint Ventures Are Not: Court Finds Claims Preempted by CUTSA in Business Deal Gone Bad

The holiday season is officially upon us: peppermint mochas have popped up on coffee shop menus, carols ring from department store speakers, and you can’t turn on the television without seeing at least three diamond commercials. But it’s not all yuletide and merriment for those in the diamond business. As one diamond importer and wholesaler recently learned, sometimes instead of a gem you get a lump of coal—in this case, from the Northern District of California, which tossed out certain claims against a former business partner on the grounds those claims were preempted by the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act. READ MORE