Developments in technology have led to advanced ways of protecting trade secrets. In an age where passwords, metadata, and paper trails are often the stories told to demonstrate misappropriation, it may seem that trade secrets must be reduced to a tangible form to be protected. However, a recent Oregon Court of Appeals opinion reminds us that this is not the case—if information is maintained as a trade secret it is equally protected regardless of form. READ MORE
It’s among an in-house counsel’s worst nightmares. A former business partner, ex-employee, consultant, or competitor has stolen your company’s trade secret information. Company management demands swift action. You hire outside counsel who, after reviewing your company policies and interviewing stakeholders, tells you that he or she is concerned about being able to establish that your company took “reasonable efforts” to protect the information. Listening to the feedback, you realize with a sinking feeling that these were steps that you, as in-house counsel, may have been able to implement if you had only thought about the issue sooner. READ MORE
“Bad Artists Copy. Good Artists Steal” – Pablo Picasso
In the small world of exclusive and upscale art sales, competing galleries inevitably form and maintain relationships with one another. This is the case for Lévy Gorvey gallery partner Dominque Lévy, and Lehmann Maupin Group co-founder Rachel Lehmann, who have known each other for over 20 years. Now, Lehmann Maupin is involved in a trade secrets fight with their former sales director, Bona Yoo, who is currently employed by Lévy Gorvey. In this tightknit artist’s community, the news of a trade secrets lawsuit against a former employee is admittedly more shocking than the typical Silicon Valley trade secret theft story, where employees leave for competitor companies as frequently as they come. But it should not be surprising that trade secrets in the art industry are just as valuable to their owners as they are to tech industry leaders—because in both worlds, client relationships are key. READ MORE
Amid a growing body of unsettled law regarding the patentability of software and business methods patents, companies are increasingly choosing to maintain their valuable innovations as trade secrets rather than risk a rejected patent application. There are pros and cons to both forms of intellectual property protection. However, the decision need not be binary – at least not during the pendency of the patent application. Instead, by opting to go the “non-publication” route, inventors can maintain trade secret protection over an invention during the patenting process and decide whether to forego trade secret status and allow the patent to issue at the end of the patent prosecution process. READ MORE
A $700 million jury award for trade secrets misappropriation and fraud is the product of a collusive scheme to deceive the jury, claims title insurance and valuations provider Amrock, formerly known as Title Source, in its recent bid for a new trial.
The blockbuster award to technology start-up HouseCanary arose out of its 2015 contract to provide Amrock with access to its proprietary app designed to generate real estate valuations for house appraisers based on a proprietary automated valuation model. Several months later, Amrock accused HouseCanary of breaching the contract by failing to provide any usable products. Amrock terminated the agreement and sought a declaratory judgment in Texas state court that it need not pay HouseCanary the contracted $5 million in annual access fees. HouseCanary countersued, claiming that Amrock used HouseCanary’s products and offerings without paying for them, collected a “critical mass” of HouseCanary’s proprietary data, and ultimately used that information to “secretly replicate” HouseCanary’s protected technology and intellectual property. HouseCanary ultimately convinced the San Antonio jury that Amrock lied about its intended purpose in entering the contract and that Amrock misappropriated HouseCanary’s data and technology to develop competing property analytics and software. In March 2018, the jury awarded HouseCanary $200 million for trade secrets misappropriation, $400 million in punitive damages for the misappropriation, $34 million for fraud relating to the contract, and $68 million in punitive damages for the fraud. In October 2018, the judge upheld the award and ordered Amrock to also pay $29 million in prejudgment interest and $4.5 million in attorneys’ fees. READ MORE
Social media today connects people more than ever. It can be a means to bring together long-lost friends, new acquaintances, and love interests, or the public with celebrities, sports teams, new products, and companies—to name just a few. It can be an effective way to market images and products, as it has the potential to reach thousands instantly with the click of a button. With such public uses and goals, social media seems like an odd candidate for trade secret protection. Yet, that is precisely what BH Media Inc. is seeking to protect in its complaint, filed with the Western District of Virginia on August 6, 2018 against a former employee, Andy Bitter. READ MORE
What do kittens, three-time NBA Finals champion Stephen Curry, and cryptocurrency have in common?
On May 7, 2018, a subsidiary of Launch Labs, a Canadian corporation doing business as Axiom Zen, released cryptocollectibles called “CurryKittens.” Cryptocollectibles are unique, digital tokens created using blockchain technology. The CurryKittens, a type of Cryptocollectible, were virtual kittens with the likeness of NBA star Stephen Curry. The CurryKittens were three of many virtual cats that could be securely bought, sold, traded, and bred on the multimillion dollar- generating CryptoKitties platform. (An image of the now suspended “CurryKittens” can be found here.) 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
On May 3, 2018, the New York Court of Appeals held that data copied onto a server constitutes a tangible reproduction for purposes of liability under the New York Penal Code, marking the end of Sergey Aleynikov’s nine year battle with federal and state prosecutors. Trade Secrets Watch has kept you up to date with the seemingly never-ending saga – most recently here, here, and here.
As a refresher, Programmer Sergey Aleynikov was accused of copying thousands of lines of code from his former employer, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in July 2009. The Second Circuit upheld Aleynikov’s conviction under the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA) and the Economic Espionage Act (EEA), but later prompted legislative changes when it reversed, finding that Aleynikov had not stolen a “good” as defined by the NSPA, nor a trade secret intended for use in interstate or international commerce, as required by the EEA. READ MORE
In 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents caught researchers attempting to smuggle a $75 million trade secret from the United States to China. Unlike the trade secrets we usually discuss, the trade secrets in tow were rice seeds. But not just any rice seeds: these valuable seeds were genetically modified to create proteins used to treat gastrointestinal disease, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, hepatic disease, osteoporosis and inflammatory bowel disease. READ MORE