Practical Tips

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

PILLOW TALK: A Threat to Trade Secrets?

It turns out that, even in romantic relationships, some things are best kept secret.  On July 7, 2017, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging that a former executive disclosed confidential information to a romantic partner who happens to be an executive of one of Teva’s direct competitors. READ MORE

“It’s a Free Country, Right?” Court Declines to Enjoin Ex-Free Country Ltd. Employees From Contacting Customers on Purloined Contact List

Within days of each other, your clothing company―Free Country Ltd.―loses two employees who decamp to a rival to set up a competing apparel line.  You discover that just before leaving, they transferred some 50,000 documents to a personal account—customer orders, your master contact list, and product design information.  Incensed, you file a trade secrets lawsuit and seek an injunction prohibiting the thieves from soliciting your customers.  Their defense amounts to, “so what if we took the documents―it’s a free country!”  Easy win, right?  Wrong.  These are the facts of a recent trade secrets lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, in which the court denied the plaintiff’s request that its former employee defendants be prohibited from soliciting plaintiff’s customers. READ MORE

Wake Forest Leaks Scandal May Offer “Playbook” For Businesses Seeking Trade Secret Protection

After a long political season that took many twists and turns due in part to revelations from WikiLeaks, the holiday season finally arrived. For many, that meant family traditions, time away from work, and massive amounts of college football, thanks to the current litany of televised bowl games.

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PUT YOUR DOCS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM: Seattle Police Enjoined From Disclosing Software Secrets in Public Records Act Dispute

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

“Gist of Action” Doctrine: Don’t Contract Away Your Misappropriation Claim

The “gist of action” doctrine. Heard of it? Well, if you are dealing with Pennsylvania law, you need to know it. The “gist of action” doctrine asks whether the “gist” of a suit sounds in tort or contract. When applied to a claim of trade secret misappropriation, the doctrine questions whether the wrongful acts constitute a tort or a breach of contract. If the wrongful acts constitute a breach of contract, Pennsylvania law bars any trade secret claim. As evidenced by the case Wiggins v. Physiologic Assessment Services, LLC, whether a claim can be brought as a trade secret claim or a breach of contract claim can turn on the wording of the contract at issue. READ MORE

Trade Secrets v. Patents: Considerations in Choosing How to Protect Your IP

Intellectual property owners may seek to protect certain information either by obtaining a patent or by maintaining its secrecy. A patent provides strong, exclusive rights for a fixed period of time, generally twenty years. A trade secret may last indefinitely but protection can be lost through independent development, reverse engineering, or failure to maintain secrecy. (We previously published a chart comparing the features of patents and trade secrets.) This article discusses those instances when trade secret protection may be superior to patent protection.  READ MORE

These are Not the Trade Secrets You’re Looking For: Star Wars Model Maker Sues Ex-Employees for Misappropriation

In a tale of alleged betrayal and misappropriation of trade secrets in a courtroom (not) far, far away, a pioneering company in the area of special effects has sued its former employees and a vendor, claiming that they conspired to recreate the company’s primary business under a new name, erasing the evidence on the way out. The alleged tale is an illustration of how vulnerable a company and its trade secrets can be in times of ownership and business transition, especially when the company relies mostly on a single customer. READ MORE

Litigate Trade Secret Misappropriation Disputes in Chinese Courts

How can trade secret misappropriation disputes be litigated in Chinese courts, despite the system’s lack of US-style discovery tools? Many companies, especially foreign companies, might be hesitant to even think about bringing trade secret misappropriation actions in China for many reasons, but perhaps most importantly, based on concerns over how to collect evidence. READ MORE

Practical Tips: Keeping Trade Secrets Safe During Litigation – Texas Supreme Court Edition

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court provided its first opinion interpreting the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act in a case involving an issue that often causes discomfort to lawyers on both sides of the “v” in trade secret misappropriation cases: how much of their trade secrets do plaintiffs have to disclose to enable the defendant to adequately defend itself? The opinion in In re M-I L.L.C. d/b/a M-I Swaco, 2016 WL 2981342 (Tex., May 20, 2016) demonstrates this tension. READ MORE