The trial of Xiaorang You (aka “Shannon You”)—the principal research engineer accused of stealing trade secrets from several companies, including Coca-Cola—began on April 6, 2021 in the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville. Ms. You was indicted by a grand jury on February 12, 2019 for theft of trade secrets, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud. The trade secrets were valued at more than $119 million. In August 2020, a superseding indictment added additional charges related to economic espionage.
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
When National Fish and Seafood’s (NFS) head of research left for a new opportunity at Tampa Bay Fisheries, she may not have taken just her talents to the competition. According to NFS’ lawsuit, the former employee transferred thousands of files containing confidential and proprietary information prior to her departure from the company. NFS also alleges that the CEO of Tampa Bay Fisheries conspired with NFS’s former employee to steal trade secrets involving its proprietary clam production process.
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
On October 31st of this year, a district judge in Massachusetts granted a motion for enhanced damages in a theft of trade secrets case, adding an additional $21 million to a $70 million jury award.
The theft of trade secrets case pitted CardiAQ Valve Technologies, Inc., a Delaware corporation and a unit of Edwards Lifesciences Corp., against Neovasc Inc., a Canadian medical device company. In June 2009, CardiAQ hired Neovasc to manufacture part of an experimental heart valve that CardiAQ was developing – a trans-catheter mitral valve (TMVI), a replacement heart valve that can be implanted using a catheter rather than by open-heart surgery. The parties signed a non-disclosure agreement. READ MORE
Recently, China and the U.S. have reached some meaningful commitments on minimizing trade secrets misappropriation and protecting intellectual property during their Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.The commitments represent a step forward for trade secrets protection between the U.S. and China. Many U.S. companies, however, still complain that they are burdened by intricate laws and litigation regarding trade secret misappropriation in China. Here’s a primer on Chinese trade secrets law, which is often jurisdiction-specific. READ MORE
In a fifteen-year tale of how not to protect your emerging company’s trade secrets when dealing with the big fish, on September 16, 2015, a California trial court denied a company’s bid for royalties for technology misappropriated by E*Trade in the early days of wireless trading. With multiple trials and trips to the court of appeals, and servers containing evidence being smashed with a hammer, the case underscores the importance of robust non-disclosure agreements and of thoroughly documenting your trade secrets. READ MORE
In China, victims of trade secret misappropriation suffering losses over RMB 500,000 are entitled to file a civil action and may also report the case to public security authorities to initiate a criminal investigation. (For more of our coverage about trade secrets protection in China, click here). When both criminal and civil actions are pending, a Chinese criminal court tends to use the civil decision, if available, as the basis of proving the crime of trade secret misappropriation as long as the damages requirement is met. In Maige Kunci Co., Ltd. v. Suzhou Ruitai New Metal Co., Ltd. (regarded as one of the top 10 Chinese IP cases in 2014) READ MORE
First rule of thumb in trade secrets litigation? A trade secret must be kept secret. It is painfully obvious, but modern practitioners must not grow complacent due to the convenience of electronic filing. Although trade secrets law does not command absolute secrecy, a recent e-filing snafu in HMS Holdings Corp. v. Arendt offers a cautionary tale from New York on how one botched upload could jeopardize a client’s most prized possession. READ MORE