Posts by: Michael Disotell

Back to School Edition: Trade Secrets Go Off to College

After the long break, students have returned to colleges and universities across the country where they will trade late summer nights out with friends for tossing Frisbees on the quad.  As classes begin, we at TSW wanted to take a moment to look at some trade secrets disputes at the heart of higher education. READ MORE

Causing a Brouhaha: Trade Secrets Disputes in the Craft Beer Industry

In recent years, the craft beer craze has taken ahold of the country and has resulted in an explosion of new microbreweries and enthusiasts. Several websites, like BeerSmith, allow users to share recipes with others; other websites, like BrewCraft, sell their recipes for home brewing.  In fact, some craft beer aficionados have even created beer trading exchanges to secure their hard-to-find favorites.  Even when a popular beer is discontinued, other microbrewers look to fill the void left on everyone’s taste buds with beers of their own.  For instance, when Russian River’s legendary craft brew Pliny the Elder was pulled from certain markets, craft brew fans raced to find similarly tasting alternatives to quench their thirst.

READ MORE

BREAKING: President Obama Signs Defend Trade Secrets Act Into Law

This afternoon, as anticipated, President Barack Obama signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act into law, wrapping up a lengthy bipartisan effort to bring trade secrets under federal system law. Some observed that the fact that President Obama chose to sign the bill into law publicly indicates the importance of the new law to the administration. READ MORE

Buried at Trial: Supplier of Earthmoving Equipment Gets Hit with $74M Verdict in Trade Secrets Theft Case

In the wake of an 8-week trial, Caterpillar Inc. has received a $74M verdict against it in the Northern District of Illinois after a jury found it guilty of exploiting a supply contract with Miller UK Ltd. to steal the company’s trade secrets. READ MORE

Trade Secrets Unwrapped: Packaging Materials Case Demonstrates The Importance Of Keeping Confidential Information Sealed Shut

There are many ways to gain trade secret protection, but also many ways to lose it. As the recent motion to dismiss ruling in Fleetwood Packaging v. Hein from the Northern District of Illinois illustrates, how a company vacuum packs its confidential information can make all the difference between preserving it and watching it get spoiled by a competitor. READ MORE

Win At All Costs?: A Glimpse Into Trade Secrets In The Sports And Entertainment Industry

It is one of those magical times during the year when sports fanatics can enjoy three major American sports all at the same time: the MLB playoffs are in full swing; the NFL season has finally kicked off; and the NHL saw the puck drop for the first regular season game a couple weeks ago. But between the throngs of fans cheering (or booing) their teams, we at TSW wanted to take a moment to reflect on the sophisticated trade secrets disputes that are at the heart of the sports and entertainment industry. READ MORE

The New Space Race: Protecting Trade Secrets on the Final Frontier

Space: The final frontier.  For millennia, people have wanted to explore the great unknown of outer space, and series like Star Trek and Star Wars continue to our fuel our fantasies about what lies beyond our stratosphere.  This fascination, as well as countries’ desires to maintain their military prowess, led to the First Space Race after World War II.  Today, while NASA’s dominance may have fizzled out, private companies have embarked on a commercialized space race to gain market dominance from their designs. Indeed, the House of Representatives recently passed the SPACE Act to enable commercial space mining activities. READ MORE

The Spies Who Loved Me (And My Trade Secrets): A Brief History of Industrial Espionage

With Chinese cyber attacks, data security, and industrial espionage occupying more and more space in the headlines, companies are re-evaluating their strategies for guarding sensitive information. There is certain to be more coverage of these issues in the weeks and months ahead — and as usual, we’ll bring you the news and our take on it as it breaks. But as regular Trade Secrets Watch readers know, we also sometimes like to look back at how we got to where we are today. This post examines the historical roots of industrial espionage to offer context on a hot and ever-changing area of concern for trade secrets owners.

Interestingly, the first reported case of industrial espionage involved trade secrets stolen from China, when in 1712 a Jesuit priest discovered the Chinese secret for manufacturing porcelain. He promptly sent the manufacturing details and materials samples to Europe, where they were shared with European merchants.

Another early example of industrial espionage came about in the late eighteenth century, when France found itself attempting to compete with the emerging industrial strength of Great Britain. The French government surreptitiously placed apprentices in English iron and steel yards to abscond with production formulas. To maintain its market dominance, Britain became the first country to pass legislation aimed at preventing industrial espionage.

In the United States, READ MORE

FOURTH OF JULY EDITION: Family Fireworks: Plot to Steal Client Lists Goes up in Smoke

fireworks220For many, Fourth of July festivities wouldn’t be complete without a baseball game, a family barbecue, and of course, fireworks.  But for one family-operated fireworks company in California, its members had an unhappy reunion in court when a great-grandson’s decision to leave the family business exploded into a dazzling dispute over trade secrets.

According to court papers, Manuel de Sousa and his family immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area from Portugal in the early 1900s and set up a fireworks business for local Portuguese community celebrations.  Manuel eventually passed the family business to his son Alfred, who then passed it on to his grandson Bob.

READ MORE