The U.S. Supreme Court recently resolved a circuit split regarding the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), specifically weighing in on the “exceeds authorized access” provision of the statute. The CFAA subjects to criminal liability anyone who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access.” READ MORE
Posts by: Roland Chang
Chinese and Russian Hackers Targeting COVID-19 Vaccine Research
The latest development in the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative” occurred earlier this month, as the DOJ unsealed an 11-count indictment charging two Chinese nationals with stealing hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of “trade secrets, intellectual property, and other valuable business information”— including potential COVID-19 research. The two Chinese hackers allegedly worked for their own benefit and together with the Ministry of State Security, China’s intelligence and security agency, to infiltrate the electronic networks of a number of targets including several American biotech firms “publicly known for work on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology.” READ MORE
The DOJ’s China Initiative—Protecting Your Assets
As anticipated in May, rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China have led to a series of escalating measures including tariffs and trade investigations. In July 2019 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray noted that more than 1,000 active investigations on intellectual property theft “lead back to China.” Against the backdrop of these issues, the Department of Justice announced the “China Initiative” on November 1, 2018. The DOJ explained that the Initiative was launched against the background of prior findings by the Administration regarding China’s trade practices. One of the China Initiative’s key goals is to “[i]dentify priority trade secret cases, ensure that investigations are adequately resourced; and work to bring them to fruition in a timely manner and according to the facts and applicable law.” READ MORE
Another California Court Raises Doubts on Employee Non-Solicitation Provisions
Last November, we discussed the potential impact of a recent California appellate court decision, AMN Healthcare, Inc. v. Aya Healthcare Services, Inc., 28 Cal. App. 5th 923 (2018), which called into question long-standing California precedent enforcing certain employee non-solicitation provisions. However, we noted it was too soon to forecast the implications of that case.
Though it is still early, it appears the tide may be turning, as a California federal district court recently issued a decision that relied upon AMN’s holding and found that the employee non-solicitation provision in the plaintiff’s contract was unenforceable under California law.
Don’t Rock the Boat: Eleventh Circuit Sinks Boatmaker’s Trade Secrets Claims Against Rival
On August 7, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendant in Yellowfin Yachts v. Barker Boatworks, LLC. Sending the rival high-end boatmakers back to shore after a two-year dispute, the Eleventh Circuit concluded, among other things, that plaintiff had not done enough to maintain the secrecy of its alleged trade secret information. READ MORE
Proving “Loss” Under the Economic Espionage Act – Not Always Straightforward
The Obama Administration’s focus on criminal trade secret prosecutions under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) highlights the legal complexities at the murky intersection between criminal and civil jurisprudence in trade secrets cases. As we previously discussed, when it comes time for sentencing, determining the “value” of the stolen trade secrets is often difficult—and courts have applied different valuation models. READ MORE
Hacking Your Rivals – Corporate Espionage in Major League Baseball
As we approach the dog days of summer, baseball season is again in full bloom. We previously discussed old-fashioned sign stealing in the context of teams trying to gain a competitive advantage during an actual game. But it appears these hijinks have evolved in today’s electronic world. As the New York Times first reported, the FBI and Department of Justice prosecutors are investigating front-office personnel for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of Major League Baseball’s most beloved franchises, for allegedly infiltrating the internal network of the Houston Astros. READ MORE
Stop and Smell the Trade Secrets, Part II: Two Major Companies Voluntarily Disclose Fragrance Ingredient Information
Do you know which chemical ingredients create that complex smell in your favorite deodorant, cologne, or perfume? For years, the answer has been a resounding no. Historically, the consumer products industry has relied on trade secret protection to avoid disclosing natural and synthetic chemical “fragrance” ingredients in its products. However, in the last two months, several multinational companies, including the Clorox Co. and SC Johnson, have voluntarily disclosed the “fragrance” ingredients in their products. These affirmative steps signal that companies are increasingly trying to balance consumer safety concerns with trade secret protection. READ MORE
THE RESTAURATEUR’S DILEMMA: Should Owners Force Chefs to Sign NDAs?
Should restaurateurs wonder eachtime they hire someone: Will this person steal their recipes — the bread and butter of their business?
Trade secret law offers limited comfort. Restaurant owners who have pursued such recipe bandits on trade secret misappropriation grounds have a mixed win-loss record. And like a fine paring knife, trade secret law can cut two ways: while it can help protect intellectual property, enforcing these laws in the restaurant business may also drive talent away. Would Michelin restaurant SPQR’s executive chef Matthew Accarrino have joined if he had been required to sign an employment agreement stating that any recipes developed during his employment become the intellectual property of the restaurant? Probably not. READ MORE