Employee Misappropriation

Trade Secret Sparks Beer Brawl in the Ninth Circuit: When is Your Word Enough?

On September 13, the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on an issue of first impression in Anheuser-Busch Cos. v. James Clark, No. 17-15591 (9th Cir. 2015).

Anheuser-Busch filed a complaint in the Eastern District of California against former employee James Clark, alleging that he violated California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA) by unlawfully disseminating a document containing its beer recipe for use in a separate class action suit. To support its allegations, the company submitted a declaration stating that the leaked document contained “confidential information related to Plaintiffs’ brewing processes, including but not limited to, information regarding a variety of analytical characteristics for each of [Plaintiffs’] products.” READ MORE

Engineering a DTSA Claim: District Court Allows Broad Allegations to Survive Motion to Dismiss

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

Automation of Our Auto Nation: New Tech Requires a New Look at Trade Secret Laws

Self-driving cars—once a thing of the future—are now becoming a reality. And, as with any new technology, there is a learning curve. Once consumers are able to test out new products, they adapt, preferences change, and what once seemed absurd or over-the-top becomes commonplace. Manufacturers then face perhaps an even steeper learning curve, trying to stay one step ahead of what the public will demand—and two steps ahead of the competition. READ MORE

Worse Than a Toothache: Dental Executive Alleged to Have Misappropriated Proprietary Business Leads

Earlier this month, a Nashville, Tennessee company filed a federal lawsuit against its former employee alleging trade secrets misappropriation under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, among other claims.  The plaintiff, Marquee Dental Partners, LLC, operates dental offices in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky.  Marquee purchases existing dental practices and provides administrative services to those practices allowing the doctors and support staff to focus on clinic services and patient care.  In a particularly strongly-worded introductory sentence, the complaint reads: “This case shows what it means to be a faithless corporate executive.”  READ MORE

Trade Secret Misappropriation by Ex-Employees in China: How to Confront “Inside Theft”

Article 123 of the General Provisions of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China (effective Oct. 1, 2017) confirmed that trade secrets are intellectual property, signifying China’s recognition of the importance of trade secret protection.  Nevertheless, trade secret misappropriation remains rampant in the country.  READ MORE

Excess Cargo? Shipping Common Law Claims Out of a Trade Secret Complaint

AFS, a company specializing in streamlining shipping costs and logistics, had its eight count amended complaint streamlined to only one—its Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“TUSTA”) claim—primarily due to preemption and AFS’s lack of specificity as to its common law claims.

AFS filed suit in December 2016 against two prior employees, Christopher Cochran and Alessandro Rustioni, and their new competing company, Freightwise LLC.  AFS’s complaint set forth the classic case of defecting employee trade secret theft.  Among other things, AFS alleged that Cochran and Rustioni founded Freightwise in 2014 while still employed for AFS.  Both continued to work for AFS in sales leadership positions until late 2015 and early 2016.  And, they allegedly conspired to and secretly organized Freightwise by soliciting one of AFS’s major clients and maliciously interfering with its high-value contracts. READ MORE

Courts Continue to Enforce Foreign Non-Competes in California While the Window for Such Agreements Slowly Closes

Contrary to common perception, California employees who signed restrictive covenants prior to January 1, 2017 are not completely immune to enforcement of all restrictions on competition. For the second time in several years, a foreign corporation, Synthes, Inc., successfully enforced a non-competition agreement against former employees who were California residents. In the most recent case, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, enforced the company’s agreement against a Sacramento resident. READ MORE

Above the Clouds: Jeweler’s Trade Secret Spat Highlights Risk of Employee-Controlled Cloud Storage

Rendering of a Cloud computing, Cloud Computing Concept Above the Clouds: Jeweler’s Trade Secret Spat Highlights Risk of Employee-Controlled Cloud Storage

We have discussed before the importance of maintaining internal policies and procedures to protect the security and integrity of cloud-based repositories. A recent case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland illustrates that this continues to be an important issue—particularly for companies who store their crown jewels on the cloud.

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ECONOMIC ESPIONAGE AND PROTECTING TRADE SECRETS: Ninth Circuit Holds That Reasonable Measures to Guard Technology are Sufficient

How can you protect your trade secrets from a vast and well-concealed international effort to steal those secrets? What constitutes a “reasonable” effort to protect that information where at least one competitor may already have the information?  The Ninth Circuit recently opined on these matters in the ongoing saga of U.S. v. Liew.

In 2014, Walter Liew and his company, USA Performance Technology, Inc., were convicted of multiple offenses, including claims under the Economic Espionage Act and conveying misappropriated trade secrets to a third party. The trade secrets related to DuPont’s technology for producing titanium dioxide, which is used in a wide range of products such as paint and Oreo cookies. READ MORE