The $740 Million Jury Question: Massive Trade Secrets Award Overturned Because of Erroneous “Improper Means” Instruction

The right to a jury trial is one of the most important features of modern trade secrets law.  But as a recently issued Order from the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals (“Court of Appeals”) illustrates, the jury trial right is only as good as the jury instructions that execute that right.   READ MORE

Commentary Sheds Light on Appropriate Level of Detail for Plaintiffs in Misappropriation Cases

This May was the fourth anniversary of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), signed into law by President Obama on May 11, 2016. The DTSA does not preempt state laws and plaintiffs can still bring cases under their state’s trade secrets law, but the DTSA has played a big role in the increased number of trade secret cases in recent years. According to Lex Machina’s Trade Secret Litigation report, which covered federal district court data from 2010 to 2019, the DTSA caused a 30% increase in trade secret case filings between 2015 and 2017 and those numbers have remained steady. READ MORE

If trade secrets misappropriation claims can be brought by non-owners, what should companies do to manage risk?

Last week, we examined the recent Third Circuit decision in Advanced Fluid Systems, which held that a trade secrets plaintiff did not need to be an owner or a licensee of the alleged trade secrets to bring a state law misappropriation claim under Pennsylvania’s UTSA—all that was required was that the plaintiff had “lawful possession” of the trade secrets. In so holding, the Third Circuit added to the weight of the Fourth Circuit’s similar analysis of Maryland’s UTSA in DTM Research, L.L.C. v. AT&T Corp., 245 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 2001).

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Spoliation by Self-Driving Startup Leads to Terminating Sanctions

During the course of a trade secrets litigation, neglecting to preserve electronically stored information (“ESI”) may result in a finding of spoliation. In a recent Order issued by Judge Edward Davila (United States District Court, Northern District of California), two startups in the autonomous vehicle industry, WeRide and AllRide, learned that failure to adequately preserve ESI can also lead to terminating sanctions. READ MORE

Ajaxo v. E*Trade: How (Not) to Prove a Reasonable Royalty for Trade Secret Misappropriation

The latest appellate decision in the nearly 20-year legal battle between Ajaxo and E*Trade highlights the importance of expert discovery and a well-developed trial court record for a plaintiff attempting to claim reasonable royalties for trade secret misappropriation.

The saga between Ajaxo and E*Trade began back in the late 1990s, with Ajaxo, a six-person company, approaching E*Trade, seeking to support its wireless access and trading business.  In response, E*Trade asked Ajaxo for a technical paper and live demonstrations, during which E*Trade’s engineers peppered Ajaxo with questions.  One E*Trade senior engineer, Dan Baca, made a copy of Ajaxo’s technical binder.  After E*Trade sent Ajaxo a draft letter of intent—with everything but the dollar amount filled in—E*Trade had a change of heart and told Ajaxo it was simply too small to be an E*Trade partner.  Instead, E*Trade acquired these services a short time later from Everypath, a company that it had been meeting with simultaneously, and where Dan Baca started to work shortly after attending the Ajaxo meetings. READ MORE

Joint Ventures & COVID-19: How to Protect Trade Secrets when Partnering with Competitors to Meet PPE and Ventilator Demand

COVID-19 has presented countless challenges, among them, the extraordinary need—and conversely, extreme shortages—of basic protective gear, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (“PPEs”) for healthcare professionals and essential businesses.  With these challenges come a myriad of opportunities for companies to develop, engineer, and deploy novel ways to address the shortage.  Possible solutions have included the federal government ordering, under the Defense Production Act, manufacturers to prioritize the manufacturing of essential medical products. As a result of high demand and a compelling need, manufacturers are stepping outside their established businesses and joining with new partners to quickly manufacture necessary products. READ MORE

Does the Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine Apply Under the DTSA? It Depends on the State.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) went into effect in May 2016. Since then, federal courts have largely adhered to existing law in their respective states to determine whether the inevitable disclosure doctrine applies to DTSA claims. This article provides a sampling of existing opinions that have either permitted or rejected the inevitable disclosure doctrine under DTSA claims, broken down by state.[1]  READ MORE

Protecting IP in a COVID-19 Remote-Work-World

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers offered remote work options. Now employers all over the world are encouraging or requiring their employees to work remote from home. This means employees are accessing, maintaining, and sharing proprietary information outside of the office more frequently than ever before, thereby increasing the risk of employee and third-party IP theft. READ MORE

In Pursuit of Chinese Trade Secret Theft: Fresh Allegations Against Huawei and Chinese Military Grabs 145 Million SSNs

Loyal readers are familiar with the DOJ’s “China Initiative,” launched in November 2018 to prosecute the theft of U.S. trade secrets by or for Chinese interests. Attorney General Barr reaffirmed the DOJ’s commitment “to combat the threat posed by theft directed and encouraged by the PRC” in an address at the China Initiative Conference last month. The DOJ’s campaign recently intensified with two new, gripping indictments. READ MORE