An ongoing, headline-grabbing trade secret theft prosecution against a Chinese spy is also quietly presenting a, say, disquieting attempt by prosecutors to stretch the law on what it is required to plead and prove. On the civil side, when a plaintiff sues for trade secret theft, there’s almost always a hotly contested point of proof on whether the alleged stolen material is really a trade secret. It’s well-established, though, that when the government charges a defendant criminally with the inchoate forms of trade secret theft—attempt or conspiracy being the two spelled out under the Economic Espionage Act—the government has no burden to prove that the underlying information was actually a trade secret. (Loyal readers will recall our recent post on United States v. O’Rourke, where the defendant tried to argue otherwise at sentencing.) Now, in a brief filed just last week, the government seems to be taking this one step further and arguing that it has no duty even to identify the trade secrets at issue. READ MORE
Lauren is a litigation associate in Orrick’s San Francisco office. Her practice spans cybersecurity and privacy matters, trade secret defense and enforcement, complex commercial disputes, government and internal investigations, and regulatory enforcement actions.
Lauren’s cybersecurity and privacy experience includes defending companies against class action litigation and contractual disputes following the announcement of cybersecurity and privacy incidents, as well as counselling clients on incident response and remediation.
In her commercial practice, Lauren represents companies as both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide range of civil disputes including claims of trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. Lauren also has experience defending individuals and companies against investigations and subsequent enforcement actions brought by the SEC and OCC.
Lauren is passionate about her pro bono practice and community service. Lauren will soon argue before a California Court of Appeal to have her client’s life sentence vacated due to fundamental changes in California’s felony murder law. Lauren is also representing a Guatemalan father and daughter seeking Federal Tort Claims Act relief after they were forcibly separated at the U.S. border while seeking asylum. In addition, the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco recognized Lauren as an Outstanding Volunteer in Public Service in 2018 for her work helping homeless clients clear outstanding warrants barring them from access to federal benefits.
Posts by: Lauren Kessler
The stakes couldn’t be higher in the race amongst Silicon Valley self-driving companies vying to be the first to bring the industry-changing technology to market. With competition so steep, and the potential value counted in the trillions, the efforts to protect this technology have given rise to frequent trade secrets theft disputes.
In the most recent instance of alleged autonomous vehicle technology trade secret theft, a federal district court judge ordered the former director of hardware of WeRide Corp., Kun Huang, to return all files he allegedly downloaded from WeRide before his departure in 2018. WeRide formerly credited Huang with its success in becoming the fastest autonomous vehicle company to complete its first public road test. Now, WeRide alleges Huang copied confidential information from a company shared-laptop, deleted files from the laptop, cleared its web browsing history, and then erased the hard drive on his WeRide-issued personal MacBook. Shortly thereafter, Huang began working at Zhong Zhi Xing Technology Co., Ltd. (ZZX), another defendant in the case, which WeRide alleges was founded by its former CEO, Jing Wang, also named as a defendant.
Based on these allegations, the Court granted WeRide a preliminary injunction against Huang and his new companies, ZZX and a related entity AllRide.AI, Inc., barring these parties from using or sharing WeRide’s trade secrets and requiring them to return all WeRide materials within four days of the order.
This case is but one of many recent trade secret disputes amongst Silicon Valley autonomous vehicle technology companies. And with autonomous vehicle employee turnover high and trillions of dollars at stake, we expect to see many more trade secret disputes arise.
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
In every trade secrets case, the plaintiff faces the same fundamental dilemma: In order to enforce their rights in court, they must identify (at least to some degree) the trade secrets at issue. Although California has adopted a reasonable particularity requirement by statute, how much detail plaintiffs must provide when identifying their trade secrets in litigation continues to vary state-by-state. The answer is no clearer under federal law, as the Defend Trade Secrets Act is silent as to this issue.
Notwithstanding, the level of particularity required is an ongoing issue that courts continue to grapple with. For example, Texas’s highest court may weigh in for the first time on the degree of specificity plaintiffs must provide when identifying trade secrets allegedly misappropriated under the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA). READ MORE