(Editorial Note: This is the second in our two-part series exploring recent litigation under the newly-enacted Defend Trade Secrets Act.)
We’ve been tracking the development of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) for a while on TSW. It was only last month that President Obama signed the dotted line, and the DTSA became law. Now, Space Data has filed suit against Google for patent infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets under the DTSA, misappropriation of trade secrets under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and breach of contract. We’ll be watching closely to see how the Northern District Court of California handles one of the first cases under the DTSA.
Space Data claims that Google’s Project Loon infringes Space Data’s patents and was developed using Space Data’s confidential and trade secret information. Google allegedly received this data after it entered into a Non-Disclosure Agreement with Space Data for the “sole and exclusive purpose of engaging in ‘discussions and negotiations concerning a proposed acquisition of shares or assets of Space Data.’” In February 2008, several Google members visited Space Data’s facilities, and co-founder Sergey Brin even got to launch one of Space Data’s high altitude balloons. (How cool is that?)
But as so often happens in the business world, negotiations stalled, and Google and Space Data went their separate ways. Or so Space Data thought, until Google co-founder Larry Page gave a TED talk on where Google is going in 2014. Space Data claims this interview reveals that Google used Space Data’s confidential and trade secret information to develop Google’s Project Loon. Space Data has conducted over 15,000 flights and accrued over 100,000 flight hours of high altitude balloons to produce its trade secret information.
The alleged trade secrets at issue include accumulation of weather data, launch methods, launch timing, balloon types, altitude regulation, business methods, business models, financial information, technology solutions, and unique knowledge and interpretation of weather data, including knowledge of the winds between 60,000 and 100,000 foot altitudes.
The DTSA explicitly states it does not preempt CUTSA, so we wait with bated breath to see what, if any, differences play out between the federal and state claims for misappropriation of trade secrets.