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Trading Secrets

A Law Blog on Trade Secrets, Non-Competes, and Computer Fraud

Massachusetts Governor Supports Noncompete Reform, But Not Abolition

Posted in Legislation, Non-Compete Enforceability, Trade Secrets

shutterstock_444377182According to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has publicly voiced his support for some restrictions on noncompete agreements, but he does not want to abolish them entirely. Specifically, Governor Baker supports the bill passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives (discussed previously here), but not the far more restrictive bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate (discussed here). According to Governor Baker’s spokesman:

The Governor favors the House version of the noncompete legislation because he believes it better balances workers’ abilities to seek new employment while ensuring cutting edge businesses can protect essential intellectual property. . . . Finding the right compromise on this issue is essential to ensuring innovative businesses want to stay and grow in the Commonwealth.

A conference committee, being led by House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey and Senator Daniel Wolf, with Representatives John Scibak and Jay Barrows and Senators William Brownsberger and Ryan Fattman, will attempt to resolve the differences between the competing bills by the end of the formal legislative session, which wraps up for the year on July 31.

We will be monitoring and will report on any progress in the conference committee this week, so stay tuned.

When Stealing in Baseball Can Land You in Jail: Computer Fraud Sentencing Announced in MLB Case

Posted in Computer Fraud, Data Theft, Espionage

shutterstock_144630422Although stealing bases, and even signs, in baseball may be part of the game, stealing another team’s trade secrets can land you in federal prison, as one executive recently learned the hard way.

As we previously reported, the FBI has been investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for hacking into the Houston Astros’ internal computer network and stealing proprietary information, including internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics, and scouting reports. The investigation has now concluded, the Cardinals’ former director of baseball development, Chris Correa, pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer in January, and he has now been sentenced to 46 months in federal prison. He also must pay $279,038 in restitution. According to NPR, “U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, as she sentenced Correa, noted that the crime has resulted in stricter security at other baseball teams, according to a press release from the Justice Department. When Correa apologized and called his actions ‘reckless,’ [Judge] Hughes replied, ‘No, you intentionally and knowingly did these acts.’”

As the Department of Justice reported at the time of Correa’s plea:

The plea agreement details a selection of instances in which Correa unlawfully accessed the Astros’ computers. For example, during 2013, he was able to access scout rankings of every player eligible for the draft. He also viewed, among other things, an Astros weekly digest page which described the performance and injuries of prospects who the Astros were considering, and a regional scout’s estimates of prospects’ peak rise and the bonus he proposed be offered. He also viewed the team’s scouting crosscheck page, which listed prospects seen by higher level scouts. During the June 2013 amateur draft, he intruded into that account again and viewed information on players who had not yet been drafted as well as several players drafted by the Astros and other teams.

Correa later intruded into that account during the July 31, 2013, trade deadline and viewed notes of Astros’ trade discussions with other teams.

Another set of intrusions occurred in March 2014. The Astros reacted by implementing security precautions to include the actual Ground Control website address (URL) and required all users to change their passwords to more complex passwords. The team also reset all Ground Control passwords to a more complex default password and quickly e mailed the new default password and the new URL to all Ground Control users.

Shortly thereafter, Correa illegally accessed the aforementioned person’s e mail account and found the e mails that contained Ground Control’s new URL and the newly-reset password for all users. A few minutes later, Correa used this information to access another person’s Ground Control account without authorization. There, he viewed a total of 118 webpages including lists ranking the players whom Astros scouts desired in the upcoming draft, summaries of scouting evaluations and summaries of college players identified by the Astros’ analytics department as top performers.

On two more occasions, he again illicitly accessed that account and viewed confidential information such as projects the analytics department was researching, notes of Astros’ trade discussions with other Major League Baseball teams and reports of players in the Astros’ system and their development.

The parties agreed that Correa masked his identity, his location and the type of device that he used, and that the total intended loss for all of the intrusions is approximately $1.7 million.

Michael McCann provides a good analysis of the sentence for Sports Illustrated and describes potential penalties Major League Baseball may pursue against the Cardinals.

Facebook, Inc. v. Power Ventures, Inc.: Shotgun-Toting Borrowers of Jewelry From Bank Safe Deposit Boxes and the CFAA. Wait. What?

Posted in Computer Fraud, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Cybersecurity

shutterstock_236620168On July 12, 2016, the Ninth Circuit filed its published opinion in Facebook, Inc. v. Power Ventures, Inc., et al., Case No. 13-17154 (“Power Ventures”).  Power Ventures is the latest in a series of decisions from the Ninth Circuit relating to the type of activities potentially giving rise to liability under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. §1030) (“CFAA”). Power Ventures has potentially important implications for the ways that businesses create, store, and monetize data through computers and web-based applications. Unlike the court’s Nosal line of decisions, Power Ventures is focused more on internet-based conduct that may violate the CFAA.

The underlying legal dispute between the parties began in 2008, when Facebook filed suit against Power Ventures, Inc. (“Power”) in the USDC for the Northern District of California. Power, which aggregated data from different social networking sites using, among other things, automated scripts (i.e., “scraping”), enabled people with various social media accounts to access all of their information in one place. Power used user-provided social media log-in information to import people’s information to a Power portal. In an effort to promote itself and attract users, Power then contacted via e-mail Facebook users’ friends, making it appear as if the e-mails came from Facebook.

Upon learning of Power’s activities, Facebook sent Power a cease and desist letter and used IP blocks in an attempt to prevent Power from obtaining Facebook data (IP blocking is a process by which a computer or network is directed to ignore all communications from a particular IP address). But Power continued to copy Facebook data and took measures to evade the IP blocks.

Although the Ninth Circuit analyzed whether Power’s conduct violated the federal CAN-SPAM Act (finding that it did not, and reversing District Court Judge Lucy Koh), the court’s analysis of the CFAA issues are most noteworthy. The court first walked through its United States v. Nosal CFAA decisions (from 2012 and July 5, 2016; see our coverage of these decisions here and here) to “distill two general rules” in analyzing the issue of authorized access under the CFAA:

(1) “a defendant can run afoul of the CFAA when he or she has no permission to access a computer or when such permission has been revoked explicitly” (noting that “once permission has been revoked, technological gamesmanship or the enlisting of a third party to aid in access will not excuse liability”); and

(2) “a violation of the terms of use of a website—without more—cannot be the basis for liability under the CFAA.”

Applying these rules, the court noted that Power users “arguably gave Power permission to use Facebook’s computers to disseminate messages” (further stating that “Power reasonably could have thought that consent from Facebook users to share the [Power promotion] was permission for Power to access Facebook’s computers”) (emphasis in original). Importantly, the court found that “[b]ecause Power had at least arguable permission to access Facebook’s computers, it did not initially access Facebook’s computers ‘without authorization’ within the meaning of the CFAA.”

The court declined, in a footnote, to “decide whether websites such as Facebook are presumptively open to all comers, unless and until permission is revoked expressly” (citing to a law review article asserting that “websites are the cyber-equivalent of an open public square in the physical world”).
Instead, the court found that a cease and desist letter sent to Power by Facebook expressly rescinded the permission granted by Facebook users to Power and put Power on notice that it “was no longer authorized to access Facebook’s computers.” The letter informed Power that, in Facebook’s view, Power had violated Facebook’s Terms of Use and directed Power to cease using Facebook content or otherwise interacting with Facebook through automated scripts.

Power continued to access Facebook and took steps to evade the IP blocks that Facebook put in place. The court noted discovery from the trial court that appears to reflect a concerted effort by Power to wire around Facebook’s countermeasures and a likely awareness that Power’s conduct implicated the CFAA.

To explain its finding that the Facebook cease and desist letter had revoked Power’s permission to access Facebook, the court analogized the circumstances to a person who wanted to borrow a friend’s jewelry held in a bank safe deposit box. The court said that the borrower would need permission from the bank and the safe deposit box holder to access the box if the bank had determined that it did not want the borrower on its premises (in the court’s example, because the borrower brought a shotgun to the bank when entering to access the safe deposit box).

Although the court’s analogy might have helped it better understand the technology and information flow at issue in Power Ventures, it lacks the nuance that can swirl around alleged “scraping” scenarios where there are sometimes questions concerning whether “access” under the CFAA has occurred and whether there is a protectable or property interest in the data scraped (in the court’s analogy, the jewelry was the safe deposit box holder’s property, but what was the data equivalent in Power Ventures and, under different facts, what might be the bank’s property interest?).

The court then went on to distinguish Power from its Nosal decisions and, in doing so made some interesting observations (arguably in dictum) about the legal effect of Facebook’s Terms of Use. The court observed that “Facebook and Power had no direct relationship, and it does not appear that Power was subject to any contractual terms that it could have breached.” It is unclear whether, by making this statement, the court is saying that, by its conduct, Power and Facebook had not entered into a contract (e.g., the Facebook Terms of Use) or rather there simply were no terms within the Terms of Use that prohibited Power’s conduct.

Notably, Facebook does not appear to have pleaded a breach of contract claim in the trial court.

In any event, whether a website’s terms of use will apply to and bind a party that attempts to “scrape” data from the website is likely to be further litigated as the intersection of traditional contact formation principles meet the evolving standards under “browser-wrap” and “click-wrap” agreements.

This much is clear from Power Ventures: Those who use websites to conduct business would be well-served to (1) carefully consider the drafting and use of website terms of use; (2) diligently monitor their websites and associated computers/servers for any access, and the means of access, by anyone other than authorized users; and (3) where unauthorized access is detected, to act promptly to notify in writing those who have potentially made such access of the conduct alleged to be improper/unlawful and demand that such conduct cease.

Cyberspace and e-commerce law will continue to evolve rapidly, so banks best keep an eye out for those skilled in the programming arts along with shotgun-toting borrowers of jewelry.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Ruling: Did the Ninth Circuit Just Criminalize Password Sharing?

Posted in Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

shutterstock_414545476Not exactly. A divided Ninth Circuit panel recently affirmed the conviction of a former employee under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), holding that “[u]nequivocal revocation of computer access closes both the front door and the back door” to protected computers, and that using a password shared by an authorized system user to circumvent the revocation of the former employee’s access is a crime. United States v. Nosal, (“Nosal II”) Nos. 14-10037, 14-10275 (9th Cir. July 5, 2016). The dissenting opinion raised concerns that the majority opinion would criminalize password-sharing in a wide variety of contexts where the password was shared by an authorized user but in violation of a service provider’s terms of service, such as for email or social networking.

An inside job

David Nosal was a recruiter employed by the executive search firm Korn/Ferry. To serve its clients and help place executives in response to talent searches, Korn/Ferry maintained a confidential, proprietary database containing detailed personal information about over one million executives. Nosal left Korn/Ferry and launched a competing firm with two other Korn/Ferry colleagues. Korn/Ferry revoked Nosal and his colleagues’ authorization to access its database. After Nosal and his colleagues left Korn/Ferry, Nosal’s colleagues accessed the database at his behest using the log-in credentials of Nosal’s former executive assistant, who remained employed at Korn/Ferry and who was authorized to access the database. They used the assistant’s valid credentials in order to run searches for candidates and thereby compete with Korn/Ferry. Nosal was convicted of violating the CFAA on a theory of accomplice liability based on his colleagues’ actions. He was ordered to pay a sizeable restitution award to Korn/Ferry.

What does “without authorization” mean, anyway?

The CFAA imposes criminal penalties on whoever “knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(4) (emphasis added). In a previous appeal in the Nosal case (“Nosal I”), the Ninth Circuit held that the “exceeds authorized access” prong makes criminal conduct out of “violations of [a company’s] use restrictions.” The Ninth Circuit’s decision in Nosal II, however, focused entirely on the “without authorization” prong of the CFAA.

The majority concluded that “without authorization” is unambiguous, and that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in LVCR Holdings LLC v. Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127 (9th Cir. 2009) applied to Nosal’s conduct: “[A] person uses a computer ‘without authorization’ under [the CFAA] . . . when the employer has rescinded permission to access the computer and the defendant uses the computer anyway.” The court stated that refusing to apply the CFAA to circumstances where an authorized user shared log-in credentials with a person whose credentials had been revoked by the owner of a protected computer system would “remove from the scope of the CFAA any hacking conspiracy with an inside person. That surely was not Congress’s intent.”

So is password-sharing now a crime?

Judge Reinhardt dissented from the majority’s opinion, expressing concerns that the ruling would criminalize “password sharing.” Judge Reinhardt warned that the majority opinion “threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct” and does not provide “a workable line which separates the consensual password sharing in this case from the consensual password sharing of millions of legitimate account holders, which may also be contrary to the policies of system owners” like email service providers or social networking sites. Judge Reinhardt asserted that, in order to avoid criminalizing such commonplace conduct, the “best reading of ‘without authorization’ in the CFAA is a narrow one: a person accesses an account ‘without authorization’ if he does so without having the permission of either the system owner or a legitimate account holder.” (Emphasis original.)

It will be left to future cases to ascertain the outer boundaries of the majority’s holding. It seems unlikely that the Ninth Circuit would uphold a CFAA conviction of a person who watched Netflix using a friend’s login credentials, but Judge Reinhart correctly points out that there is no inherently limiting language in the statute itself. So, future litigants may focus on the Nosal II majority’s discussion of “revocation of access” as a means to distinguish simple password sharing. It would be one thing for a person to use a friend’s Netflix account to watch movies; it would be another thing if the person had previously had a Netflix account revoked for downloading and selling pirated copyrighted works, then used a friend’s account to circumvent the “revocation of access” and continue such piracy. The problem is, the statute’s language does not make any distinctions based on “revocation of access.” It remains to be seen whether Nosal II provides a workable rule for applying the CFAA in future cases.

Practical Implications for Employers

Setting aside the great password-sharing debate, Nosal II makes clear that criminal sanctions can be imposed against former employees who improperly access their employer’s systems after their authorization to do so is revoked by the employer. Whether former employees use their old log-in credentials or use those of current employees who are themselves authorized to use the employer’s systems, Nosal II means that any such access is “without authorization” under the CFAA.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Massachusetts Senate Reverses Course On Non-Compete Reform

Posted in Legislation, Non-Compete Enforceability

shutterstock_131276240As we last reported, just a few weeks ago, the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously approved a non-compete bill that revised the original draft bill and addressed some of the business community’s concerns (such as the mandatory garden leave provision, prohibition on judicial reform of overbroad agreements, etc.). However, the Senate yesterday introduced a version that would dramatically curtail the enforceability of non-competes in Massachusetts, making substantial changes to the House’s version (and in some cases, even going beyond the original bill prior to the House’s compromise edits). Most — if not all — of the revisions are sure to concern those companies that use non-competes as one tool to protect their intellectual property:

  • The time limits for non-competes (except in cases where an employee has breached a fiduciary duty or engaged in misappropriation) would be limited to a mere three months, as distinct from the House’s 12 month provision;
  • To be enforceable, an employer must inform the employee of its intention to enforce the non-compete within 10 days of the termination of the employment relationship;
  • All non-competes must be “reviewed” with the employee at least once every 5 years after execution, although it is unclear what this “review” must consist of;
  • The non-compete must be supported by a garden leave clause or other mutually agreed upon consideration — although unlike the House’s version, which required a garden leave provision whereby an employee would receive 50% of his or her annualized salary or other agreed upon consideration (without dictating what the consideration must be), the Senate’s version requires the garden leave and/or other consideration to be equal to or greater than 100% of the employee’s highest annualized earnings within the prior 2 year period (note that earnings can be substantially greater than salary);
  • In addition to the numerous categories of employees that cannot be bound by non-competes under the House’s approved bill, the Senate’s version also prohibits enforcement of non-competes against employees “whose average weekly earnings . . . are less than 2 times the average weekly wage in the commonwealth” (based on the latest figures published by the United States Department of Labor, that would mean that employees making less than approximately $118,000 could not be bound by non-competes);
  • The Senate’s bill would reinstate the provision in the original bill that a court could not judicially reform an overbroad non-compete — a major departure from the current state of the law in Massachusetts (and an about-face from the House’s compromise);
  • The bill would also prohibit a court from relying on the “inevitable disclosure” doctrine to supplement non-competes or render an otherwise unenforceable agreement enforceable;
  • The bill would prohibit any provision that would penalize an employee from defending against or challenging the enforceability of a non-compete agreement (in other words, attorneys’ fees provisions);
  • Finally, Senator Mark Montigny of the Senate’s Committee on Rules has recommended that the bill be declared an “emergency law” — which would mean that if passed, it would go into effect immediately, rather than on October 1.

As previously noted, the current legislative session ends on July 31, so legislators will need to move quickly if this version is to pass. While we noted in our last post that the atmosphere in the Commonwealth seemed favorable to passage of the House’s version, we anticipate that the local business community will strongly voice its opposition to this latest draft.

We will keep you updated as we approach the end of this year’s legislative session…

Upcoming Webinar: International Non-Compete Law Update

Posted in International, Trade Secrets

WebinarOn Thursday, July 28, at 12:00 p.m. Central, Seyfarth attorney Dominic Hodson will present “International Non-Compete Law Update,” the eighth installment in Seyfarth’s 2016 Trade Secrets Webinar series.

Mr. Hodson will focus on non-compete considerations from an international perspective. Specifically, the webinar will involve a discussion of recent developments, and a refresher in general principals, in non-compete issues around the globe. This webinar will provide valuable insight for companies who compete in the global economy and must navigate the legal landscape in these countries to ensure protection of their trade secrets and confidential information, including via the effective use of non-compete and non-disclosure agreements.

*CLE Credit for this webinar has been awarded in the following states: CA, IL, NJ and NY. CLE Credit is pending for GA, TX and VA. Please note that in order to receive full credit for attending this webinar, the registrant must be present for the entire session.

register

Webinar Recap! Enforcing Trade Secret and Non-Compete Provisions in Franchise Agreements

Posted in Non-Compete Enforceability, Practice & Procedure, Restrictive Covenants, Trade Secrets

shutterstock_394290406As a thank you to our valued readers, we are pleased to announce the webinar “Enforcing Non-Compete Provisions in Franchise Agreements” is now available as a podcast and webinar recording.

In Seyfarth’s seventh installment in its series of Trade Secrets Webinars,  Seyfarth attorneys John Skelton, James Yu and Dawn Mertineit focused on the importance of State specific non-compete laws and legislation and recent Federal and State efforts to regulate the use of non-compete agreements; enforcement considerations for the Franchisee when on-boarding and terminating employees; and lessons learned from recent decision regarding enforcing non-compete provisions upon termination and non-renewal.

As a conclusion to this well-received webinar, here are three key takeaway points:

  • As reflected by the May 5, 2016 White House report (Non-Compete Agreements: Analysis of the Usage, Potential Issues, and State Responses), state and federal non-compete legislative proposals and recent enforcement action by the Illinois Attorney General challenging the use of non-compete agreements for lower level employees, Franchisors and Franchisees need to anticipate more regulation and scrutiny.
  • With respect to their own employees, Franchisors and Franchisees need to develop and implement on-Boarding, termination and other procedures designed to ensure that both departing and prospective employees understand their ongoing obligations with respect to the company’s confidential and proprietary information and trade secrets and that such information is protected throughout the employment relationship.
  • The enforceability of non-compete provisions are most often litigated in the context of a request for a preliminary injunction and several recent decisions confirm that to enforce a non-compete against a departing franchisee the franchisor (1) should be able to show harm to actual competition; (2) needs to act promptly and that enforcement delays likely means that any alleged harm is not irreparable; and (3) should develop and implement a post-termination plan beyond simply sending a notice of termination as the franchisor will need to present evidence of actual harm.

Update: Massachusetts House of Representatives Edits and Unanimously Approves Non-Compete Bill in an Attempt to Make Progress Before End of Legislative Session

Posted in Legislation, Non-Compete Enforceability, Trade Secrets

shutterstock_150999275

As we previously reported, Massachusetts is making yet another go at non-compete reform, as the Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development introduced a compromise bill at the end of May that has many in the Commonwealth talking.  As we noted, there were several provisions that gave some commentators pause, including most notably a garden leave provision that would require employers to pay former employees bound by non-compete agreements 50% of their highest annualized salary over the last 2 years of employment for the restricted period.

House leaders have recently made edits to the bill that might provide some comfort to employers who rely on non-compete agreements and were wary of the bill’s provisions.  First, the revised bill would allow an employer to agree to “other mutually-agreed upon consideration” as an alternative to garden leave, provided such consideration is specified in the agreement.  This change has already made some in the business community more comfortable with the bill; for example, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, Jim Rooney, acknowledged that “it’s better than what we were working with.”

The revised bill would also maintain the status quo by allowing judges in the Commonwealth to reform non-competes that they deem overbroad (for example, by replacing a 100-mile geographic scope with a 50-mile one), which is a significant departure from the bill’s original text, which would have forced judges to invalidate such agreements even if they were largely enforceable, but only slightly overreaching.  The original “red pencil” text, like the garden leave provision, was quite concerning to many in the business community, so this change will likely comfort many employers.

Additionally, an amendment revised the jurisdictional provision of the bill, and now provides that all civil actions relating to employee non-compete agreements be brought in either the county where the employee resides, or Suffolk county (where such actions would be brought in the Business Litigation Session) — although this still leaves some confusion as to whether a claim relating to a non-compete agreement could be brought in federal court.  If not, the bill might lead to claim-splitting where an employer seeks to assert a Defend Trade Secrets Act claim.  Finally, the revised bill would only apply to agreements entered into on or after October 1, 2016, allowing employers with additional time to revamp their agreements.

Yesterday, the House voted unanimously to approve the revised bill, sending it to the Senate, which will consider the legislation after July 4th.  That said, despite the improvements noted above, there are still many provisions in the bill that might give employers heartburn; as we mentioned in our last post, among other things, the bill eliminates “continued employment” as sufficient consideration for such agreements, and prohibits non-competes across-the-board for certain categories of employees, including most notably those classified as non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It remains to be seen whether legislators will continue to revise the bill to address these (and other) concerns.  However, given that the Senate voted unanimously to ban non-competes outright fairly recently, we anticipate that the bill will meet with considerable success in the Senate.

Finally, even assuming the bill passes, it’s still unclear whether Governor Baker will sign or veto it, given that his administration has not strongly signaled one way or the other how he views the pending legislation.  That said, in the face of the unanimous vote in the House (and potential for a unanimous vote in the Senate), Governor Baker may be hard-pressed to justify a veto.

As always, we will keep you updated on this topic, so stay tuned!

Seyfarth’s Trade Secrets Group Earns Top Tier Ranking from Legal 500

Posted in Trade Secrets

Top_tier_firmsThe 2016 edition of The Legal 500 United States recommends Seyfarth Shaw’s Trade Secrets group as one of the best in the country. Nationally, for the first time, our Trade Secrets practice earned Top Tier.

Based on feedback from corporate counsel, two Seyfarth partners, Michael D. Wexler and Robert B. Milligan were recommended in the editorial.

The Legal 500 United States is an independent guide providing comprehensive coverage on legal services and is widely referenced for its definitive judgment of law firm capabilities. The Legal 500 United States Awards 2016 is a new concept in recognizing and rewarding the best in-house and private practice teams and individuals over the past 12 months. The awards are given to the elite legal practitioners, based on comprehensive research into the U.S. legal market.

Webinar Recap! The Defend Trade Secrets Act: What Employers Should Know Now

Posted in Legislation, Trade Secrets

shutterstock_149599301We are pleased to announce the webinar “The Defend Trade Secrets Act: What Employers Should Know Now” is now available as a podcast and webinar recording.

In Seyfarth’s sixth installment, attorneys Robert Milligan, Daniel Hart and Amy Abeloff, described the key features of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) and compared its key provisions to the state Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”) adopted in many states. They also provided practical tips and strategies concerning the pursuit and defense of trade secret cases in light of the DTSA, the handling of employment relations, and provided some predictions concerning the future of trade secret litigation.

As a conclusion to this well-received webinar, we compiled a summary of three takeaways that were discussed during the webinar:

  • The DTSA was passed  after many failed attempts to pass trade secret legislation allowing for a federal cause of action for misappropriation. The bill was passed with overwhelming bipartisan, bicameral support, as well as backing from many significant companies in several business sectors.  The DTSA now allows trade secret owners to sue in federal court for trade secret misappropriation, and seek remedies heretofore unavailable, including an ex parte seizure order.
  • The DTSA contains an immunity provision that protects individuals from criminal or civil liability for disclosing a trade secret if such disclosure is made in confidence to a government official or attorney, indirectly or directly.  The provision applies to those reporting violations of law or who file lawsuits alleging employer retaliation for reporting a suspected violation of law, subject to certain specifications (i.e., trade secret information to be used in a retaliation case must be filed under seal). The DTSA places an affirmative duty on employers to give employees notice of this provision in “any contract or agreement with an employee that governs the use of a trade secret or other confidential information” that is entered into or updated after May 11, 2016. Employers that do not comply with this requirement lose the ability to recoup exemplary damages or attorney fees in an action brought under the DTSA.
  • Though the passage of the DTSA creates a new federal cause of action for trade secret misappropriation, the passage does not render state law and state causes of action irrelevant or unimportant. The UTSA is still an available cause of action in 48 states, and state law still plays a vital role in drafting non-disclosure and non-competition agreements. Additionally, under the DTSA, employers may be able to seek injunctive relief against former employees in the event of misappropriation, but such injunctive restrictions must comport with relevant state law.

Join us Tuesday, June 21 at 12:00 p.m. Central, for our next webinar, “Enforcing Trade Secret and Non-Compete Provisions in Franchise Agreements.” To register, click here.