Oktoberfest Edition! Beer and Trade Secrets

Yes, we know the real Oktoberfest takes place primarily in September, and, yes, this post has nothing to do with Germany or celebrations or even fun.  But this time of year presented a good excuse to write about the intersection between trade secrets and beer.  So here you have it:  three moments when trade secret law and beer came together to produce this blog post.


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.


Memorial Day Weekend Edition: Century-Old Third Circuit Opinion on Warship Documents Shows Courts’ Historic Hostility Toward Trade Secrets

This Memorial Day weekend, we would like to stop and honor the sacrifice that American servicemen and women have made, and take a brief look at an early case involving the military and trade secrets.

In 1910, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision involving a contract with the United States Navy and a dispute over the disclosure of documents related to the construction of destroyers.  At the time of this decision, European powers had begun an arms race that would later escalate, and geopolitics were causing tensions that would lead to the First World War.

In re Grove, 180 Fed. 62 (3rd Cir. 1910) originated as a patent case, and a dispute arose as to whether Henry Grove, president of the defendant shipbuilding company, was in contempt for refusing to produce copies of plans and specifications for the Navy destroyers.  Grove had refused to produce the documents on the advice of counsel, on the grounds that disclosure would harm the public interest by disclosing military secrets, and would result in the unnecessary disclosure of trade secrets.  The Navy’s advertisement for bids had contained numerous requests that information related to bids be kept confidential.  The Secretary of the Navy had also stated that disclosure of the documents “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” READ MORE

Mother’s Day Post: Mother and Son Accused of Trade Secret Theft

In honor of Mother’s Day, we note a case in which mother and son were both accused of misappropriating trade secrets.

Arlene Specter (no, not Arlen Specter) was an insurance agent at First Express Services Group who joined her son Mark’s competing insurance agency, Easter & Associates.  First Express sued Ms. Easter and her son in Nebraska state court for, among other things, violating the Nebraska Trade Secrets Act.  First Express claimed that Arlene stole a “commission sheet” (basically, a customer list) and that she and her son used it to solicit clients for the family business.

The jury returned a verdict READ MORE