Posts by: Editorial Board

Rising Tensions as Trump Administration Prepares to Announce Results of Section 301 Trade Investigation into China’s Alleged Intellectual Property Rights Violations

As we previously reported, on August 14, 2017, President Trump signed an executive memo asking U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine whether to launch an investigation into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Later that week, after a review of Chinese laws, policies, and practices relating to IP, Lighthizer recommended and launched an investigation “to determine whether acts, policies, and practices of the Government of China related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation are unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce.” READ MORE

U.S. v. Yeh Illustrates the Challenges in International Trade Secrets Cases

On March 14, 2014, a Texas jury acquitted former Texas Instruments (“TI”) employee Ellen Chen Yeh on all counts brought against her arising from her admitted downloading of Texas Instruments proprietary information before leaving the company for a China-based semiconductor manufacturer.  The Yeh trial illustrates a number of important issues related to government trade secrets enforcement in the increasingly global knowledge economy.

Defendant Ellen Chen Yeh worked as a design engineer at TI’s Dallas headquarters from September 20, 1993 to March 11, 2005.  In her role at TI, Ms. Yeh had access to a significant amount of confidential manufacturing process information concerning certain TI semiconductor chip products.  Several weeks after her employment ended, Yeh and her husband planned to move to Shanghai, China, where both Yeh and her husband had obtained employment with a Taiwan-based semiconductor design company.  In the weeks leading up to her departure from TI, Ms. Yeh admittedly downloaded proprietary information from TI and burned some of it onto CDs. READ MORE

UPDATE: California Bill Requiring Fracking Chemical Disclosure Advances in Legislature

California is one step closer to requiring energy companies to disclose to state regulators the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”

On Wednesday, the state Senate passed S.B. 4.  As we have reported previously, the bill requires, among other things, the disclosure to state regulators of potential trade secrets in the form of fracking fluid chemicals. The regulators may, in turn, disclose this information to first responders and health care professionals in the event of an emergency.  The information would not, however, be publicly accessible.  The bill contains stiff civil penalties for noncompliance.

As we discussed in our original post on this issue, California’s law adds to the uncertainty associated with patchwork fracking disclosure rules, particularly because California has significant coastal and inland shale deposits that will undoubtedly be a prime target for oil and gas companies.

The bill will now be considered by the state Assembly.  If that chamber passes the measure with no amendments, it then goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.  If the Assembly does amend it, the bill returns to the Senate.

Time for the White House to Step In? Patchwork State Fracking Regulations Will Spawn FOIA and Trade Secrets Lawsuits

Revised post available here.

With a growing number of states demanding disclosure of its fracking recipes, the oil and gas industry is fighting to plug what it views as government-mandated leaks in its trade secrets pipeline.

Battles are brewing in state capitals and courts as the industry faces fourteen states (and counting) that now require disclosure of the chemicals they use for fracking (aka hydraulic fracturing), a liquid-based process of drilling and extracting oil and gas from shale rock below ground.  These regulations are intended to allow government agencies to evaluate the environmental and health impacts of fracking.  Some state agencies are mandating disclosure directly to the agency (California is considering this approach), while other agencies are taking a permissive approach and rely on information submitted to an industry-developed registry for fracking.

Once collected by a state agency, the receiving agency can generally disclose corporate fracking information to third parties.  These parties may include doctors in the case of a spill under California’s fracking bill, or any member of the public in response to state freedom of information act (FOIA) requests.  Environmental and public-health groups are advocating for a robust disclosure policy, while oil and gas companies argue that their fracking approaches are trade secrets and READ MORE