Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Hassel v. Bird, a case we’ve discussed previously because it involves critical issues related to anonymous online speech and trade secrets protection. As promised, we’ll have more coverage once the court renders its decision.
In the meantime, take a look at this recent Law360 Expert Analysis (subscription required). In it, TSW co-editor-in-chief Mike Weil reports that the arguments in Hassel took place before a “hot bench” and provides an in-depth analysis of the case law in this area.
As our United States readers prepare for the holiday weekend, we look back to a post from the archives where we dished about franchise relationships gone awry and a trade secrets dispute over turkey sandwiches. The takeaway: Savvy franchisors should consider revisiting their agreements with an eye toward gaining admissions from franchisees that certain materials constitute trade secrets.
And while our readers in the rest of the world wrap up the work week, companies in the United Kingdom may have a reason to be thankful. As our colleagues over at the Employment Law and Litigation blog discuss, a recent High Court decision granted an order allowing an employer to image a departing employee’s computer to see if it contained confidential information.
This post is a good read not only for those in the UK but for any company interested in protecting its trade secrets and confidential information. For example, the post includes this tip, which has fairly broad impact: You will be more likely to persuade a court to rule in your favor if you offer limitations and controls in the carrying out of a forensic search of a computer or other device.
Whenever a trade secret owner asserts its rights in court against a party alleged to have misappropriated the trade secret, there is always a risk that the trade secret will be publicly disclosed during discovery or during trial, thereby resulting in a further uncontrollable dissemination of the trade secret. The owner also faces a risk that information not included in the originally misappropriated information, will be disclosed during discovery, thereby possibly giving the adversary a free peak at new information. One way to guard against the risk of such disclosure is the use of “AEO” or Attorneys’ Eyes Only designations in litigation protective orders for highly confidential materials, which limits the parties who can review such highly confidential information to attorneys only. But as a recent case reminded us, the right to designate documents as AEO is not automatic; this protection of the plaintiff’s trade secrets and other highly confidential materials must also be balanced against the right of defendants to assist in their own defense. READ MORE
(Editors’ note: Thanks to Orrick summer associate, Ruben Sindahl, for his help with this blog post.)
Just four years after the Lone Star State ended its holdout by becoming the 48th State to adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Texas passed a bill to amend its enactment. The bill was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on May 19, 2017, and will take effect on September 1, 2017.
On May 8, 2017, the United States Patent and Trademark Office hosted its second event on trade secrets. When we covered the USPTO’s inaugural trade secrets symposium held in January 2015, there was a palpable sense among DC insiders that, at long last, federal trade secrets legislation was imminent.
Readers of this blog of course know the rest of that story: obviously the biggest change in the landscape since the last event was the passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016. In fact, the USPTO intentionally timed this event to fall near the one-year anniversary of the DTSA’s passage.
What else had changed in the last two years? To answer that question, I once again traveled to USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA to attend the symposium and provide TSW readers with the following report. READ MORE
What’s in a name? Obviously a lot, as businesses in all industries invest significant time and money to protect their reputations. But, in some sectors, the line between positive and pejorative can be quite thin.
Take email marketing and cybersecurity, for example: What exactly distinguishes a successful high-volume email marketer from a spammer? And how can we distinguish a well-intentioned security analyst exposing vulnerabilities from a nefarious hacker? (Those familiar with techspeak will surely recall the familiar “white hat” and “black hat” dichotomy, but even that, as Wired has observed, is subject to gray areas of its own.) READ MORE
Many oil and gas companies operate within incredibly tight margins and subject to ever-volatile commodity market prices. In such a competitive sector, the ability to innovate with improved extraction and transmission techniques can be make-or-break. As we have previously written, one way to gain an advantage in the process of hydraulic fracturing is to use specially chosen or designed chemical additives that can make a frack job more successful than it otherwise may be. Oil and gas companies often rely on trade secrecy to protect these special fracking fluid compositions. As can be expected, many environmental groups express concern that these chemicals could contaminate groundwater and, in turn, argue that landowners and the public have a right to know if potentially harmful chemicals are being injected into the ground. READ MORE
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.
This Thanksgiving, Trade Secrets Watch is serving a delicious tale about protecting trade secrets in a franchising relationship.
In 1994, Quizno’s entered into a franchise agreement with Robert Kampendahl, an enterprising fellow who wanted to open up a Quizno’s sandwich shop in St. Charles, Illinois. Unfortunately, Kampendahl didn’t keep his food equipment clean, used unapproved foods, and had safety and sanitation problems, so Quizno’s terminated the franchise agreement. Upon termination, Kampendahl was subject to a covenant not to compete that prohibited him from opening a competing sandwich shop within five miles. READ MORE
As many TSW readers are aware, 2016 has been a big year for trade secret law, with both the United States and the European Union expanding trade secrets protections and increasing the uniformity of their laws. But as good as this year has been for trade secrets protection, it’s been every bit as bad for noncompete agreements.