As two recent cases show, how one pleads its case under the Defend Trade Secrets Act can be the difference between whether “aloha” means hello or goodbye to federal jurisdiction.
A district court in Hawaii recently dismissed a plaintiff’s claim under the DTSA because it failed to establish subject matter jurisdiction. In that case, DLMC, Inc., a health care service provider for elderly and infirm residents of Hawaii, accused a former employee of stealing client lists. The cause of action under the DTSA was the only federal claim in the complaint and, therefore, the only basis for federal jurisdiction. However, to plead a cause of action under the DTSA, the trade secret must be “related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce.” The only argument DLMC made as to this required nexus was that its clients “have federal patient identification numbers so as to allow for their receipt of federal funds for the services provided to them by [DLMC].” DLMC also argued that because it was an entity whose very existence relies on and is conditioned upon federal application, certification and approval,” its services “are subject to federal law….” Neither of these arguments persuaded the court as they both failed to show whether and how the alleged trade secrets themselves (as opposed to DLMC’s business generally) related to interstate commerce. The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, however, with leave for DLMC to amend its complaint to allege a DTSA (or other federal) claim. READ MORE
When Congress enacted the DTSA on May 11, 2016, it left open the issue of whether the DTSA would apply to misappropriation that occurred prior. As we previously reported, many federal district courts have since found that it does apply if there were continuing acts of misappropriation after enactment of the statute. Now, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has weighed in, upholding a district court’s dismissal of a DTSA claim where the plaintiff failed to allege a continued act of misappropriation after the date of enactment. READ MORE
In a testament to the wide breadth of potential trade secret protection to any number of industries, a court in the Western District of Washington denied a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Seattle Sperm Bank’s (SSB) DTSA and Washington Uniform Trade Secrets Act claims against its prior employees who set up a competing company, Cryobank America. Among other things, SSB alleged that in the months leading up to their departure, the employees copied 10 folders, including 67 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and 149 forms, to a portable hard-drive that they took with them upon their departure from SSB. READ MORE
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
The strange contraption in this photo is at the heart of a recent decision regarding the pleading standard for DTSA claims. On June 15, Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Juan Sanchez denied a motion to dismiss counts of trade secret misappropriation against Joshua Andrew Adams, a former project engineer for PDC Machines, Inc. who left the company and later joined Nel Hydrogen A/S. PDC and Nel collaborated in 2008 to develop high-pressure hydrogen gas diaphragm compressors and signed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) barring Nel from replicating or reverse engineering the technology. Adams was also subject to an NDA that prohibited him from using any of PDC’s confidential information and trade secrets without written permission. In the complaint, PDC asserts that Adams now works for Nel, and that Nel has filed at least one patent application listing Adams as the inventor for a high-pressure diaphragm hydrogen compressor that is nearly identical to PDC’s version. READ MORE
The Federal Circuit recently issued an opinion, Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions, Inc. v. Renesas Electronics America, Inc., that addressed several interesting issues impacting the calculation of damages in trade secret actions. Perhaps the Court of Appeals’ ruling of greatest consequence involved its determination that there is no Seventh Amendment right to a jury decision on disgorgement of profits – a remedy also often commonly described as “unjust enrichment.” The Federal Circuit instead ruled that the calculation of disgorgement damages is for the trial court to decide after making findings of fact and conclusions of law. If the decision is extended by other federal courts, it could have wide-reaching implications for claims under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which allows for unjust enrichment damages as a remedy for misappropriation of trade secrets. READ MORE
As widely reported, on April 20, the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) kicked off a twelve count lawsuit against a number of entities and individuals, including the Russian Federation, General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (“GRU”), WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Donald J. Trump, Jr., and other political foes. Amongst the wide swath of allegations, which include everything from computer fraud to RICO conspiracy, are allegations that the defendants misappropriated trade secrets in violation of both the DTSA and the Washington D.C. Uniform Trade Secrets Act. 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
The lawsuit between Swarmify and Cloudflare recently produced an Order in which U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup denied Swarmify’s motion for a preliminary injunction, and also offers a cautionary tale about what activities might result in bloggers being hauled into Court.
In 2016, Swarmify, a start-up focused on affordable video streaming, and Cloudflare, a corporation that uses a network of data centers for content delivery, entered into confidential negotiations regarding Cloudflare’s potential acquisition of Swarmify. During these discussions, Swarmify disclosed to Cloudflare some confidential information about the company’s proprietary streaming method, including a pending unpublished patent application, but notably did not disclose any computer code. While the discussions were ongoing, Cloudflare offered employment to Swarmify’s CEO and the senior developer of Swarmify’s proprietary streaming method. Both individuals declined, and informed Cloudflare any movement on their part would have to come through Cloudflare’s acquisition of their company. The companies ended negotiations and parted ways, but not for long. 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