Mona Amer, an Of Counsel in Orrick's Los Angeles office, is a member
of the Litigation Group and the White Collar Criminal Defense and
Corporate Investigations Group. Her practice focuses on white collar criminal defense and corporate investigations.
Mona also has extensive experience representing plaintiffs and defendants in complex commercial litigation in state and federal courts involving breach of contract, fraud and unfair business practices.
In August 2019, federal prosecutors indicted Feng Tao, a Chinese scientist conducting research at the University of Kansas, on fraud charges. The indictment may not appear notable at first glance. But when viewed against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s escalating trade war and the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative,” the facts underlying this prosecution may tell a deeper story.
As part of its China Initiative—a program announced in November 2018 to combat state-sponsored intellectual property theft—the DOJ set out to develop an enforcement strategy concerning universities and research laboratories. These institutions are considered particularly vulnerable targets of Chinese espionage because of their status as recruiters of foreign talent and incubators of state-of-the-art technology. The FBI has since begun scrutinizing universities’ ties to China, reaching out to schools around the country to curb the threat of technology and trade secret theft posed by researchers tapped by the Chinese government. READ MORE
Oregon recently enacted HB2992, further limiting its already restrictive non-compete law, which will apply to any agreements entered on or after January 1, 2020. The new law amends Oregon’s prior non-compete law by requiring the employer, as a condition of the non-compete’ s enforceability, to provide a signed, written copy of the terms of the non-compete agreement to the employee within thirty days of the termination of employment. This is effectively a mandatory reminder, as Oregon’s non-compete law already required the employer to inform the employee at the outset of employment of the non-compete agreement, either two weeks prior to the employee’s first day of employment or as part of a bona fide advancement of the employee. Oregon’s non-compete law also already required that the employee be in an “administrative, executive, or professional” position and have access to trade secrets, other competitively sensitive information, or be “on-air” talent subject to other restrictions.
Oregon’s state legislature thus created a new hoop for employers to jump through before it can subject a limited subset of employees to non-competes. Oregon’s mandatory reminder at the end of an employee’s employment, and not just at the beginning, further aligns its non-compete law with one of the Obama administration’s final mandates for state legislators to improve the transparency and fairness of non-competes.
“Bad Artists Copy. Good Artists Steal” – Pablo Picasso
In the small world of exclusive and upscale art sales, competing galleries inevitably form and maintain relationships with one another. This is the case for Lévy Gorvey gallery partner Dominque Lévy, and Lehmann Maupin Group co-founder Rachel Lehmann, who have known each other for over 20 years. Now, Lehmann Maupin is involved in a trade secrets fight with their former sales director, Bona Yoo, who is currently employed by Lévy Gorvey. In this tightknit artist’s community, the news of a trade secrets lawsuit against a former employee is admittedly more shocking than the typical Silicon Valley trade secret theft story, where employees leave for competitor companies as frequently as they come. But it should not be surprising that trade secrets in the art industry are just as valuable to their owners as they are to tech industry leaders—because in both worlds, client relationships are key. READ MORE
A recent case from the Federal Circuit upholding a jury’s finding in favor of defendant offers lessons to both defendants and plaintiffs on preparing for trade secrets misappropriation actions. Both plaintiff, Raytheon, and defendant, Indigo, are companies in the infrared imaging equipment business. Of the four Indigo founders, three of them were former Raytheon employees, causing Raytheon to accuse Indigo of misappropriating its trade secrets. Specifically, Raytheon accused Indigo of using Raytheon’s sequential vacuum bake recipes and in situ solder seal package assembly process taken by the former Raytheon employees to develop Indigo’s recipes and processes. READ MORE
It’s a date! Or a dating app, at least. Texas courts are ablaze with competing allegations from online dating companies Match and Bumble that each has misappropriated the other’s trade secrets. Swipe right (or up) to learn more. READ MORE
On October 31st of this year, a district judge in Massachusetts granted a motion for enhanced damages in a theft of trade secrets case, adding an additional $21 million to a $70 million jury award.
The theft of trade secrets case pitted CardiAQ Valve Technologies, Inc., a Delaware corporation and a unit of Edwards Lifesciences Corp., against Neovasc Inc., a Canadian medical device company. In June 2009, CardiAQ hired Neovasc to manufacture part of an experimental heart valve that CardiAQ was developing – a trans-catheter mitral valve (TMVI), a replacement heart valve that can be implanted using a catheter rather than by open-heart surgery. The parties signed a non-disclosure agreement. READ MORE
On February 2, 2016, Georgia State Senator Hunter Hill introduced Senate Bill 321 in the Georgia Senate. The bill is entitled “Commerce and Trade; state government; protections against public disclosure of certain information.” The bill has 36 co-sponsors, all of whom, like Hill, are Republican. READ MORE
On October 5, 2015, years of protracted negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”) concluded. The TPP is a proposed trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim nations that lowers trade barriers such as tariffs, establishes intellectual property protections, creates labor and environmental standards, and creates a framework for resolving disputes between member nations. The 12 nations participating in those negotiations are Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Colombia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, and the United States. Conspicuously absent are the People’s Republic of China, Macao, Russia, and North Korea. READ MORE
In January of this year, we noted that trade secret protection has lately been on the minds of lawmakers in Washington, and that federal trade secret legislation was very close to being enacted. While nothing is pending at the moment, we can expect renewed efforts similar to two bills that were introduced in Congress last year – one each in the Senate and House. In anticipation of such efforts, we thought it would be useful to review what happened in 2014. READ MORE
We’ve written previously about how intellectual property owners can obtain both patent and trade secret protection in the same technology. A case out of the Federal Circuit illustrates that IP holders sometimes choose to assert both in the same action – including, notably, in actions before the International Trade Commission (“ITC”).
Last month, in uPI Semiconductor Corp. v. ITC the Federal Circuit affirmed a finding that a defendant in a mixed patent infringement/trade secret action violated an earlier consent order. The court found the defendant had aided and abetted its customers in importing products incorporating electrical controllers that the defendant had previously stipulated READ MORE