Misappropriation

When Friend Turns Foe: The Risks of Sharing Trade Secrets during M&A Negotiations

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

To Be Or Not To Be: NY High Court Rules that Data Copied to a Server is a Tangible Reproduction under the New York Penal Code

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

Seedy Business: Chinese Scientist Sentenced to Ten Years for Stealing Proprietary Rice Seeds

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

That’s a Cut: “Textbook Reparable Harm” was “Showstopper” to Video-Streamers’ Preliminary Injunction Request

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

Defining Trade Secrets: Texas Supreme Court May Soon Decide How Particular Trade Secrets Owners Must Be in Court

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

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

Accounts Frozen: DOJ Alleges Seven Defendants Conspired To Misappropriate Trade Secrets

Competition from Chinese companies shows no signs of slowing. Likewise, allegations of trade secret theft against Chinese companies are increasingly common. In this case, the U.S. Department of Justice linked allegations of trade secret theft with wire transfers from a Chinese company in order to freeze bank accounts and real property held by several defendants charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets. READ MORE

EVEN BAMBI IS A TRADE SECRET: Eastern District Of Texas Finds That Lineage and Genetic Information of Deer Are Trade Secrets, Grants Preliminary Injunction

As surprising as it may be to city dwellers, the deer farming industry generates $3 billion per year for the U.S. economy. According to the North American Deer Farmers Association, “deer farming is one of the fastest growing industries in rural America.”  The corollary of the deer farming industry is a burgeoning deer breeding industry. As a court in the Eastern District of Texas recently noted, the “deer breeding industry is a potentially lucrative industry with single straws of buck semen selling for $5,000 to $20,000 on average, and ranging all the way up to $1 million to purchase the entire buck.” READ MORE

Courts Still Heavily Favor Rule 65 TROs Over DTSA Ex Parte Seizures

Temporary Restraining Order acronoym in front of gavel image Courts Still Heavily Favor Rule 65 TROs Over DTSA Ex Parte Seizures

The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 was signed into law by President Obama on May 11, 2016. While the DTSA has been on the books for over a year, relatively few courts have addressed the ex parte seizure provision and even fewer have actually granted a seizure under the DTSA.  This is likely due to the DTSA’s requirement that courts order property seizures only in extraordinary circumstances.  In other words, courts are hesitant to grant DTSA ex parte seizure requests unless it is clear that the alleged misappropriator would disobey a TRO or preliminary injunction, or otherwise destroy, move, or hide trade secrets.  Courts continue to favor FRCP 65 TROs and preliminary injunctions to protect trade secrets from disclosure or destruction.  Under FRCP 65, courts can issue TROs and preliminary injunctions, but cannot order U.S. Marshalls to seize property from a defendant without notice.  The following cases are illustrative.

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A “Virtual” Home Is Not a Home: Court Sanctions Plaintiffs for “Reckless Disregard” in Deciding the Proper Forum for Their Litigation

Toy model house on pier by water A “Virtual” Home Is Not a Home: Court Sanctions Plaintiffs for “Reckless Disregard” in Deciding the Proper Forum for Their Litigation

The following blog post is courtesy of our sister blog, NorCal IP.

Usually, one benefit of being a plaintiff is deciding in what forum to pursue litigation.  Generally, even a foreign-based plaintiff may pursue litigation in a U.S. forum where a defendant may be found or in which there is a substantial connection to the litigation.  There are, however, limits on a plaintiff’s choice of forum, and a recent decision in Tapgerine LLC v. 50Mango, Inc. demonstrates that pushing those limits may result in sanctions.

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