When Friend Turns Foe: The Risks of Sharing Trade Secrets during M&A Negotiations

In the world of election politics, arms-length dealing with political adversaries is a delicate dance.  Recently, TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm learned how risky even negotiating with those on the same side of the aisle can be.  On June 28, 2018, TargetSmart filed a complaint in the District Court of Massachusetts against GHP, a Boston-based investment firm, and Catalist, TargetSmart’s competitor in the Democratic consulting space, seeking damages and permanent injunctive relief for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, and other claims arising from a merger negotiation gone-wrong. READ MORE

Engineering a DTSA Claim: District Court Allows Broad Allegations to Survive Motion to Dismiss

The strange contraption in this photo is at the heart of a recent decision regarding the pleading standard for DTSA claims.  On June 15, Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Juan Sanchez denied a motion to dismiss counts of trade secret misappropriation against Joshua Andrew Adams, a former project engineer for PDC Machines, Inc. who left the company and later joined Nel Hydrogen A/S.  PDC and Nel collaborated in 2008 to develop high-pressure hydrogen gas diaphragm compressors and signed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) barring Nel from replicating or reverse engineering the technology.  Adams was also subject to an NDA that prohibited him from using any of PDC’s confidential information and trade secrets without written permission.  In the complaint, PDC asserts that Adams now works for Nel, and that Nel has filed at least one patent application listing Adams as the inventor for a high-pressure diaphragm hydrogen compressor that is nearly identical to PDC’s version. READ MORE

A New Month, a New Compliance Deadline in the European Union: What Businesses Need to Know About the EU Trade Secrets Directive

Just days after the European Union’s widely-discussed new data privacy regulations, the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), took effect on May 25, 2018, another EU-wide legal change quietly occurred.  (And if you’re still puzzling through GDPR compliance, fear not:  We have plenty of resources for you here.)

But on to the less familiar date:  June 9, 2018, was the deadline for EU member states to comply with the new Directive on the Protection of Trade Secrets.  As we’ve reported before, the European Parliament adopted the Directive in 2016 to harmonize national laws regarding trade secrets protection.  Under the Directive, trade secrets owners across Europe should enjoy increased protection and uniformity—welcome news, given that the laws have historically differed significantly from country to country.

Revised Trade Secrets Disclosures May Be Costly

In some cases, there may be a severe cost – even a monetary cost – for plaintiffs who seek to materially amend their trade secrets disclosure following discovery.  This is what happened to the plaintiff, Swarmify, in its lawsuit against Cloudflare, now pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

As we reported previously, on February 27, 2018, the court in this case denied Swarmify’s motion for a preliminary injunction for failure to show irreparable harm.  At that time, the court commented that Swarmify’s trade secrets disclosure, produced pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 2019.210, was severely overbroad and “ever-shifting,” which the court characterized as a “blatant abuse of the system.” READ MORE

Federal Circuit Illuminates Right to Disgorgement as Remedy for Trade Secret Misappropriation

The Federal Circuit recently issued an opinion, Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions, Inc. v. Renesas Electronics America, Inc., that addressed several interesting issues impacting the calculation of damages in trade secret actions.  Perhaps the Court of Appeals’ ruling of greatest consequence involved its determination that there is no Seventh Amendment right to a jury decision on disgorgement of profits – a remedy also often commonly described as “unjust enrichment.”  The Federal Circuit instead ruled that the calculation of disgorgement damages is for the trial court to decide after making findings of fact and conclusions of law.  If the decision is extended by other federal courts, it could have wide-reaching implications for claims under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which allows for unjust enrichment damages as a remedy for misappropriation of trade secrets. READ MORE

In the Ninth Circuit, Your Fate (and Documents) May Not Be Sealed

Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California handed down a strongly worded order denying a motion to seal alleged trade secret information, and sanctioning counsel for defendant for the frivolous request. The order is a stern reminder to the sanctioned attorneys and to trade secret litigants in federal court generally that federal litigation is traditionally a public process, and that parties seeking to remove documents from the public’s access often face an uphill battle in order to do so. READ MORE

New York Court Takes Saved Cost Damages off the Table

Plaintiffs in New York state trade secret actions face a new limitation on their damages claims, according to a May 3, 2018 decision from the state’s Court of Appeals.  The 4-3 opinion settles a split in New York state case law.  Going forward, compensatory damages for trade secrets misappropriation are limited to the amount actually lost by the plaintiff, and cannot extend to the “hypothetical” amount saved by the alleged infringer on research or development. READ MORE

Constitutional Challenge to CFAA Survives Motion to Dismiss as D.C. Court Weighs in on Circuit Split

On March 30, 2018, in Sandvig v. Sessions, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed one of several constitutional challenges to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to survive a motion to dismiss.  In doing so, the district court highlighted and analyzed the split between circuits in interpreting the “exceeds authorization” provision and joined the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits in finding that exceeding authorization means exceeding authorized access and not merely authorized use. READ MORE

To Be Or Not To Be: NY High Court Rules that Data Copied to a Server is a Tangible Reproduction under the New York Penal Code

On May 3, 2018, the New York Court of Appeals held that data copied onto a server constitutes a tangible reproduction for purposes of liability under the New York Penal Code, marking the end of Sergey Aleynikov’s nine year battle with federal and state prosecutors.  Trade Secrets Watch has kept you up to date with the seemingly never-ending saga – most recently here, here, and here.

As a refresher, Programmer Sergey Aleynikov was accused of copying thousands of lines of code from his former employer, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in July 2009.  The Second Circuit upheld Aleynikov’s conviction under the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA) and the Economic Espionage Act (EEA), but later prompted legislative changes when it reversed, finding that Aleynikov had not stolen a “good” as defined by the NSPA, nor a trade secret intended for use in interstate or international commerce, as required by the EEA. READ MORE

Campaigning for Protection of Political Trade Secrets

As widely reported, on April 20, the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) kicked off a twelve count lawsuit against a number of entities and individuals, including the Russian Federation, General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (“GRU”), WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Donald J. Trump, Jr., and other political foes.  Amongst the wide swath of allegations, which include everything from computer fraud to RICO conspiracy, are allegations that the defendants misappropriated trade secrets in violation of both the DTSA and the Washington D.C. Uniform Trade Secrets Act. READ MORE