Posts by: Editorial Board

Law360 Publishes Mike Weil Expert Analysis on Trade Secrets and Anonymous Speech Online

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.

THANKSGIVING EDITION: Looking Back at Turkey Trade Secrets in the US and Understanding Employer Remedies in the UK

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.

AEO Designations: A Balance Between Protecting Trade Secrets And Allowing Defendants To Defend Themselves

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

Amendments to Texas UTSA Bring it Closer in Line with DTSA, but Differences Remain

American and Texas state flags flying on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin Amendments to Texas UTSA Bring it Closer in Line with DTSA, but Differences Remain

(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.

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USPTO’s Second Trade Secrets Symposium Looks Back on First Year of DTSA and Ahead Toward Challenges of International Trade Secrets Protection

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

(Alleged) Spammer Squares Off With (Alleged) Hacker, Highlighting Risk of Cyber Threats

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

Full* Disclosure: A Middle Road in Fracking Fluid Law

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

Trade Secret Misappropriation in the World of Driverless Cars: Google versus Uber

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.

Misappropriation Versus the Copyright Act: Round 2 in the Fifth Circuit

A few months ago, Trade Secrets Watch covered the GlobeRanger Corp. case in which the Fifth Circuit joined 10 other circuits in determining that the Copyright Act does not preempt state trade secret misappropriation claims. The court used a two-prong test in its analysis, establishing that the Copyright Act could preempt a state law claim if two conditions are met: (1) if the work at issue fell within the subject matter of copyright; and (2) if the right that the litigant sought to protect was equivalent to any of the exclusive rights within the general scope of copyright. READ MORE

Diamonds Are Forever, but Joint Ventures Are Not: Court Finds Claims Preempted by CUTSA in Business Deal Gone Bad

The holiday season is officially upon us: peppermint mochas have popped up on coffee shop menus, carols ring from department store speakers, and you can’t turn on the television without seeing at least three diamond commercials. But it’s not all yuletide and merriment for those in the diamond business. As one diamond importer and wholesaler recently learned, sometimes instead of a gem you get a lump of coal—in this case, from the Northern District of California, which tossed out certain claims against a former business partner on the grounds those claims were preempted by the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act. READ MORE