Trade Secret Sparks Beer Brawl in the Ninth Circuit: When is Your Word Enough?

On September 13, the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on an issue of first impression in Anheuser-Busch Cos. v. James Clark, No. 17-15591 (9th Cir. 2015).

Anheuser-Busch filed a complaint in the Eastern District of California against former employee James Clark, alleging that he violated California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA) by unlawfully disseminating a document containing its beer recipe for use in a separate class action suit. To support its allegations, the company submitted a declaration stating that the leaked document contained “confidential information related to Plaintiffs’ brewing processes, including but not limited to, information regarding a variety of analytical characteristics for each of [Plaintiffs’] products.” READ MORE

#SecretTweets: Protecting Social Media as a Trade Secret?

Social media today connects people more than ever. It can be a means to bring together long-lost friends, new acquaintances, and love interests, or the public with celebrities, sports teams, new products, and companies—to name just a few. It can be an effective way to market images and products, as it has the potential to reach thousands instantly with the click of a button. With such public uses and goals, social media seems like an odd candidate for trade secret protection. Yet, that is precisely what BH Media Inc. is seeking to protect in its complaint, filed with the Western District of Virginia on August 6, 2018 against a former employee, Andy Bitter. READ MORE

Massachusetts Enacts New Reforms on Noncompetes, Becomes 49th State to Enact UTSA

Just two days after TSW’s inaugural post, we brought you news of Texas becoming the 48th state to enact some form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA).

Now, roughly five years and one federal trade secrets statute later, Massachusetts has become the 49th state, leaving New York as the lone holdout.  The new law, which takes effect on October 1, 2018, is part of an amendment to a $1.1 billion economic development bill that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law on August 10, 2018.  With the enactment of the UTSA, Massachusetts courts will have newfound power to enter injunctions against actual or threatened misappropriation of trade secrets.

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Banking on Standard Operating Protocols as Trade Secrets

In a testament to the wide breadth of potential trade secret protection to any number of industries, a court in the Western District of Washington denied a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Seattle Sperm Bank’s (SSB) DTSA and Washington Uniform Trade Secrets Act claims against its prior employees who set up a competing company, Cryobank America.  Among other things, SSB alleged that in the months leading up to their departure, the employees copied 10 folders, including 67 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and 149 forms, to a portable hard-drive that they took with them upon their departure from SSB. READ MORE

OPEN SECRETS: Can Business Methods Based on Blockchain Technology Constitute Trade Secrets?

Several months ago, we reported on the potential to protect trade secrets by encrypting information using blockchain technology.  Then, earlier this month, we reported on an order out of the Southern District of California involving “CryptoKitties,” a decentralized application (or “DApp”) built on the Ethereum blockchain (using the ERC721 protocol) that allows users to securely buy, sell, trade, and breed genetically unique virtual cats.

While the potential to protect trade secrets using blockchain technology is clear, the reasoning in the CryptoKitties order raises questions regarding whether blockchain technology could constitute a trade secret in and of itself or when combined with other concepts or business methods pursuant to Federal and California law.

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Kittens, Stephen Curry, and Cryptocurrency: This Trade Secrets Case Has It All.

What do kittens, three-time NBA Finals champion Stephen Curry, and cryptocurrency have in common?

On May 7, 2018, a subsidiary of Launch Labs, a Canadian corporation doing business as Axiom Zen, released cryptocollectibles called “CurryKittens.”  Cryptocollectibles are unique, digital tokens created using blockchain technology.  The CurryKittens, a type of Cryptocollectible, were virtual kittens with the likeness of NBA star Stephen Curry.  The CurryKittens were three of many virtual cats that could be securely bought, sold, traded, and bred on the multimillion dollar- generating CryptoKitties platform.  (An image of the now suspended “CurryKittens” can be found here.) READ MORE

Failing to Prepare Is Preparing to Fail

A recent case from the Federal Circuit upholding a jury’s finding in favor of defendant offers lessons to both defendants and plaintiffs on preparing for trade secrets misappropriation actions. Both plaintiff, Raytheon, and defendant, Indigo, are companies in the infrared imaging equipment business. Of the four Indigo founders, three of them were former Raytheon employees, causing Raytheon to accuse Indigo of misappropriating its trade secrets. Specifically, Raytheon accused Indigo of using Raytheon’s sequential vacuum bake recipes and in situ solder seal package assembly process taken by the former Raytheon employees to develop Indigo’s recipes and processes. READ MORE

UPDATE: Home Remedies Remain Best Medicine for Politically Charged IP Theft

In July 2018, a federal judge in Wisconsin imposed a $1.5 million penaltythe maximum statutory fine—against Chinese wind turbine manufacturer, Sinovel Wind Group Co. Ltd., for stealing trade secrets from Massachusetts-based technology company, AMSC Inc. In addition to the fine, Sinovel was sentenced to 1 year probation and ordered to pay $57.5 million in restitution to AMSC, an amount the companies had settled on prior to the ruling. Sinovel also agreed to pay $850,000 to Massachusetts wind turbine operators. READ MORE

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