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.
What happens when trade secret protections collide with laws granting public access to government records? This question took center stage in a recent case involving the Seattle Police Department (“SPD”). A federal district court enjoined the SPD from disclosing a software vendor’s allegedly trade secret information in response to a reporter’s public records act request. Besides serving as a reminder of the precautions that companies should take when disclosing intellectual property to public agencies, the case also raises interesting questions and strategic considerations. READ MORE
As many TSW readers are aware, 2016 has been a big year for trade secret law, with both the United States and the European Union expanding trade secrets protections and increasing the uniformity of their laws. But as good as this year has been for trade secrets protection, it’s been every bit as bad for noncompete agreements.
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
On July 31, 2015, TSW continued our reporting of the continuing saga of Congress’ attempts to establish a federal right of civil action for trade secrets misappropriation by covering the introduction of the “Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015” (“2015 DTSA”). The 2015 DTSA was introduced in identical form in the House (H.R. 3326) by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and in the Senate (S. 1890) by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). In prior posts, we covered the introduction of the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2014 in both the House (the “2014 House Bill”) and the Senate and outlined the differences between the two, noting that the 2014 House Bill was much more protective of defendants facing ex parte seizure orders. READ MORE
The Trade Secrets Act of 2014 (H.R. 5233) was introduced in the House by Congressman George Holding on July 29, 2014. Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH), Howard Coble (R-NC), John Conyers (D-MI), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), are cosponsors of the bill.
While the House Bill is very similar to the Bill introduced in the Senate on April 29, 2014 Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2014 (DTSA) (S. 2267), there are some major differences between the two. Specifically, the House Bill is much more protective of defendants facing ex parte seizure orders. READ MORE
Florida may be the Sunshine State but there has been too little illumination into the Florida Legislature’s congressional redistricting process, according to the League of Women Voters of Florida. In 2010, voters amended the state’s constitution to end gerrymandering in advance of the 2012 decennial redistricting. Nevertheless, the day after the Governor approved the Legislature’s 2012 redistricting plan, the League and others challenged the redistricting process as intentionally (and therefore unconstitutionally) favoring the Republican party and incumbents and diluting the voting power of African-American and Hispanic voters. READ MORE
The Fourth Circuit has thrown out the second-largest trade secret jury verdict on record, an award of nearly $1 billion, on the grounds that the district court improperly excluded evidence relevant to the defense.
We have covered this case extensively, tracing its history of allegations of double agents, bribery, top-secret industrial facilities, and its (apparent) culmination with an enormous jury award. Now, it seems, this epic legal saga will start anew. On April 3, the Fourth Circuit unanimously vacated the jury award and ordered a new trial. READ MORE