Take off your eclipse glasses, close that NASA photo gallery, and stop thinking about how “path of totality” would make an awesome band name: it’s time to get back to work. As the country recovers from Eclipse Mania 2017, we take a look at some space-related trade secrets cases.
Someone might be stealing your trade secrets behind your back! A federal court found that’s what happened to Pacific Aerospace & Electronic, Inc. (PAE), a company that designs components for electronic circuitry in the aerospace and space exploration industries and whose products are used on the Hubble Telescope and the International Space Shuttle. According to PAE, the specialized nature of its business makes the identity of its customers—who are relatively few in number—critical to its business success. That’s why it was a problem when two PAE employees who had access to proprietary information about PAE’s technologies and customers left for a rival company, RAAD Technologies, Inc. One of the former employees allegedly copied backup tapes of design information weeks before leaving, and both employees allegedly compiled a list of prospective customers after leaving which they gave to RAAD’s sales representative for use in soliciting business. PAE brought a claim for misappropriation of trade secrets (among others) against these former employees and RAAD in the Western District of Washington, and moved for a preliminary injunction. The court ruled that PAE’s detailed customer information was a protectable trade secret, and that PAE risked irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction and would likely prevail on the merits of its misappropriation claim. However, the court limited the scope of injunctive relief only to future misuse of the trade secret customer list, rather than ongoing misuse—i.e., continued sales to wrongfully-acquired customers—as PAE had requested. The court reasoned that given the importance of PAE’s (and later RAAD’s) customers, public interest concerns favored permitting these ongoing business relationships and remedying any harm by an award of monetary damages.
After a long political season that took many twists and turns due in part to revelations from WikiLeaks, the holiday season finally arrived. For many, that meant family traditions, time away from work, and massive amounts of college football, thanks to the current litany of televised bowl games.
The holiday season is officially upon us: peppermint mochas have popped up on coffee shop menus, carols ring from department store speakers, and you can’t turn on the television without seeing at least three diamond commercials. But it’s not all yuletide and merriment for those in the diamond business. As one diamond importer and wholesaler recently learned, sometimes instead of a gem you get a lump of coal—in this case, from the Northern District of California, which tossed out certain claims against a former business partner on the grounds those claims were preempted by the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act. READ MORE
Hollywood’s heavy-hitters often enter the ring over unauthorized biographies. Elizabeth Taylor famously invoked her rights of publicity and privacy in an attempt to shut down an unofficial docudrama about her life; Clint Eastwood sued the author and publisher of his unsanctioned biography for libel; and a film production company brought claims for copyright and trademark infringement against the producers of the biopic Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried. Hollywood’s newest matchup involves misappropriation of trade secrets, a growing concern in the entertainment industry, especially after the recent Sony hack. READ MORE
With stories of cyberattacks and data breaches on a seemingly endless loop, businesses and governments have been doubling down on their efforts to protect digital information and assets. But, in some industries, the greatest threat might still be a pair of quick hands. For instance, in the restaurant industry, opening the kitchen doors to a new employee creates real risks. As we’ve discussed, sometimes the decision whether to print or download can have major legal ramifications. And with computer forensics technology growing in leaps and bounds, sometimes an old-school paper trail might be more enticing to would-be perps than a digital one. That said, the FBI has a track record of turning up bags of shredded documents in grocery store dumpsters. READ MORE
For those of us who revel in this time of year as amateur “bracketologists,” last year’s promise of the billion dollar bracket brought an added lottery-like level of fun to the NCAA basketball tournament. Even though the odds of winning were (as stated by the rules) 1 in 9 quintillion, people believed that there COULD be that one winning bracket – that is, until Memphis beat George Washington University and everyone’s perfect bracket hopes died. READ MORE
We have written before about business collaborations gone sour that lead to trade secret misappropriation lawsuits. In a recent example, The Weather Channel convinced a court to wash away claims that its use of data from a former licensor violated trade secret laws. We can take away some useful lessons from how both parties approached this relationship and the treatment of sensitive data. READ MORE
In the fiercely competitive world of professional sailing, every second matters. And, as with any sport, competitors look to gain any advantage they can by getting their hands on the latest equipment, fine-tuned to give them even the slightest advantage. This demand for the best equipment creates the same kind of competition among manufacturers, which can lead to battles over IP, licensing deals, and trade secrets.
The Fifth Circuit’s affirmance last week of a $44.4 million trade secrets award in the Wellogix v. Accenture case is a weighty reminder of the power of circumstantial evidence in trade secrets cases, and the importance of getting rid of your collaborator’s trade secrets after a co-development or joint venture project ends.
Although the oil and gas industry spends billions of dollars a year to construct oil wells, oil companies apparently clung to their practice of using paper records to track project costs. Wellogix tried to modernize this practice by developing a computerized system for planning, procuring, and paying for “complex services” involved in such projects. But it still needed others to perform accounting and marketing services, so it collaborated with two other companies: SAP and Accenture.
As with the most successful relationships, Wellogix remembered to READ MORE