Social media and related issues in the workplace can be a headache for employers. There is no denying that social media has transformed the way that companies conduct business. In light of the rapid evolution of social media, companies today face significant legal challenges on a variety of issues, ranging from employee privacy and protected activity to data practices, identity theft, cybersecurity, and protection of intellectual property.

On September 28th at 12:00 p.m. Central, in Seyfarth’s fifth installment in its Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Justin Beyer, Ryan Behndleman, and Dawn Mertineit will discuss the relationship between trade secrets and social media.

The panel will specifically address the following topics:

  • The interplay between social media privacy laws and workplace investigations and how developing internal company policy and/or contracts can protect company assets
  • Defining, understanding, and protecting trade secrets in social media
  • How courts are interpreting ownership of social media accounts and whether social media sites constitute property
  • How to prevent trade secret misappropriation or distribution through social media channels
  • The interplay between protection of company information and ownership of company accounts in the social media age

Please join us for this informative webinar.

A recent decision from the Supreme Court of Wisconsin affirmed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a defendant accused of conspiring to misappropriate its competitor’s trade secrets. By a 4-3 decision in North Highland Inc. v. Jefferson Machine & Tool Inc., 2017 WI 75 (July 6, 2017), the Court found that plaintiff North Highland, Inc. (“North Highland”) had failed to present sufficient evidence of misappropriation or conspiracy to proceed beyond the summary judgment stage, prompting a notably sharp exchange with dissenting Chief Justice Patience D. Roggensack and a second dissent by two other justices.

Highland is a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of industrial products. One of the companies it distributed its products to was Bay Plastics, Inc., owned by Frederick Wells. Prior to 2011, Wells decided to form a separate company to manufacture the products which Bay Plastics sold, including some of the products which it purchased from North Highland. Wells formed Jefferson Machine & Tool Inc. (“Jefferson Machine”) along with Dwain Trewyn—Wells owned 75% of Jefferson Machine and Trewyn owned the remaining 25%. At the time of Jefferson Machine’s formation, Trewyn was employed by North Highland in sales. Trewyn did not have a non-competition agreement with North Highland, but also did not inform North Highland that he would also be working at Jefferson Machine. Continue Reading Wisconsin High Court Affirms High Summary Judgment Bar to Trade Secret Misappropriation Claims

The use of open file sharing platforms in business continues to increase in 2017; Dropbox alone has over 200,000 active business accounts. Unfortunately, the convenience of these platforms and the increase in use by businesses attracts the attention of hackers as well. File sharing platforms and accounts have a high “hack value”—the overall value of the accounts on the dark web—due to the relative ease with which account can be obtained and the sensitivity of the information stored on these platforms.

The risk associated with the use of file share platforms is twofold. First, company supported file share is attractive to attackers because it is guaranteed to contain sensitive information. Second, file share platforms available to employees outside of the company—e.g. the employee Google Drive account—may be used to store company information, but likely do not use the same security standards as those enforced by the company. Attacks on file share platforms are also very real. In August of 2016 Dropbox forced users to reset their passwords based on a breach—60 million account credentials compromised—that had been discovered but was executed four years earlier in 2012. Continue Reading File Share Platforms and Business Risk

As a special feature of our blog—special guest postings by experts, clients, and other professionals—please enjoy this blog entry from Charlie Platt, a director at iDiscovery Solutions.

It’s Friday afternoon and the conversation goes a little like this, “Wait, what? They’re leaving? Where are they going? Is there any opportunity to help them reconsider?”

When a key employee departs an organization, it can take a toll on clients and colleagues, productivity, and morale. What follows is a rush of activity: current projects are reviewed, transition plans are quickly drawn up and put in place, and decisions are made about how to replace the departing employee and how to communicate the departure to the rest of the firm and clients.  Continue Reading Key Employee Departures and Trade Secret Risk Assessment

On September 7, at 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern, Robert Milligan will present “Understanding and Exploring the DTSA” CLE webinar.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 establishes federal jurisdiction over trade secret theft and creates a federal cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. It affords damages and injunctive relief and further allows an aggrieved party to obtain an ex parte seizure of property necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of a trade secret. However, the law also provides immunity for certain disclosures, such as in a court filing under seal or to a government official for the purpose of reporting a suspected violation of law. Notice of the immunity provisions must be included in any contract or agreement with an employee that governs the use of a trade secret or other confidential information. Continue Reading Robert Milligan to Present “Understanding and Exploring the DTSA” CLE Webinar

In Seyfarth’s fourth webinar in its series of 2017 Trade Secrets Webinars, Seyfarth attorneys Robert Milligan and Joshua Salinas were joined by Jim Vaughn, one of California’s leading computer forensics experts, presented Trade Secret Protection: What Every Employer Needs to Know. The panel focused on how to help employers navigate the tricky trade secrets waters and provided best practices for trade secret protection.

As a conclusion to this well-received webinar, we compiled a summary of takeaways: Continue Reading Webinar Recap! Trade Secret Protection: What Every Employer Needs to Know

50 State Desktop Reference: What Businesses Need to Know About Non-Compete and Trade Secret Law

It has been an extraordinary year regarding trade secret and non-compete issues. We saw more and more cases filed in federal court asserting claims under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) and for alleged violations of non-competes. Some states passed legislation further narrowing the use of non-compete agreements, and some media outlets, academics, and regulators have continued their criticism of such agreements. We expect over the next year, the law to continue to develop regarding the DTSA’s application, definitions, scope, limitations, benefits and interpretation with regard to the immunity provisions. Our 50 State Desktop Reference is a useful guide to know how the law is currently applied in each state.

Seyfarth’s Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud and Non-Competes Practice Group is pleased to provide the 2017-2018 Edition of our one-stop 50 State Desktop Reference, which surveys the most-asked questions related to the use of covenants and intellectual capital protection in all 50 states. For the company executive, in-house counsel, or HR professional, we hope this guide will provide a starting point to answer your questions about protecting your company’s most valuable and confidential assets.

How To Get Your Desktop Reference

To download the pdf of 2017-2018 Edition of the 50 State Desktop Reference, click here.

To request a hard copy of the Desktop Reference, click on the button below.

shutterstock_377009158As a special feature of our blog—special guest postings by experts, clients, and other professionals—please enjoy this blog entry from Bobby R. Williams, Jr., a senior consultant at iDiscovery Solutions.

When litigation looms or a data preservation notice is sent out, key individuals or parties might try to delete data to avoid discovery – despite well-publicized horror stories regarding data destruction, phone and email wiping, and the risks of spoliation and sanctions. In many cases, if we find an absence of evidence during an examination, we typically also find evidence of destruction. We refer to these individuals as “Wipers.”

Wipers are the folks who roll the dice and try to game the system. They have enough knowledge to know how to destroy data, feel like they can get away with it, and take a chance. “The document is gone, aha!” might say the Wiper. However, Wipers still run into problems they didn’t anticipate. Even if they manage to delete or destroy the incriminating document or email, they’ve usually taken the time to install and run data destruction software, leaving behind associated artifacts showing the download and usage of such software. Another thing Wipers usually don’t consider: they leave behind other artifacts and data that gives us a clear picture of the document. Data showing when the document was created or modified, the folder it was saved in, even who opened it, when, and how many times. In trying to cover up the original footprints, they invariably left new footprints. And sometimes, even when a Wiper believes they completely deleted the document itself, it sometimes resides in a snapshot or backup they did not see. Continue Reading How To Address Wipers In Trade Secret Cases

Illinois is one of several jurisdictions that recognizes the authority of courts to blue pencil or judicially modify otherwise unenforceable restrictive covenants to be enforceable. See, e.g. Weitekamp v. Lane, 250 Ill. App. 3d 1017, 1028, 620 N.E.2d 454, 462 (4th Dist. 1993) (affirming judicial modification of 300-mile non-compete to specific county); Arpac Corp. v. Murray, 226 Ill. App. 3d 65, 80, 589 N.E.2d 640, 652 (1st Dist. 1992) (affirming the circuit court’s modification of restrictive covenant when it was modified “only slightly” and holding that the balance of the restrictions were reasonable and necessary to protect Arpac’s legitimate business interests).

Recent reported decisions, however, cast doubt on the availability of judicial modification in all but exceedingly limited circumstances. In the past three years, only a handful of cases even mentioned judicial modification and, of those cases, not one actually modified, or affirmed the modification of, an otherwise unenforceable covenant. See AssuredPartners, Inc. v. Schmitt, 2015 IL App (1st) 141863, ¶ 52 (2015) (refusing to modify restrictive covenants because “deficiencies too great to permit modification”); Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Miller, No. 14 CV 3165, 2015 WL 515965, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 6, 2015) (deciding choice of law, noting that “Illinois courts are circumspect in their modification” and that “Illinois courts look skeptically at modifications, and may modify covenants only after ensuring that fairness is not harmed”); Fleetwood Packaging v. Hein, No. 14 C 9670, 2014 WL 7146439, at *9 n.7 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 15, 2014) (rejecting a proposed modification that would a create a durational limitation where none existed before, noting that “[e]ven when courts have found judicial reformation to be warranted, the challenged restrictive covenants needed only slight modification to become reasonable”).  Continue Reading Illinois Employers Should Not Depend on Blue Penciling to Enforce Restrictive Covenants

As a special feature of our blog—special guest postings by experts, clients, and other professionals—please enjoy this blog entry from Jonathan Karchmer, a senior managing consultant at iDiscovery Solutions with experience in managing projects dealing with computer forensic examination and experience advising counsel regarding intellectual property and trade secret theft. 

It was a matter of hours. A simple thing really. Was an email sent at 10:00 a.m. or at 2:00 p.m.? An entire case hung in the balance; if the email was sent at 10:00 a.m., the custodian had prior knowledge, if at 2:00 p.m., then not. Unfortunately, the email had been extracted and produced on multiple occasions during the litigation, each showing a different time. iDS was called in to do two things: First, determine the correct time the email was sent, and second, explain to the court how the time could have been incorrectly reported so often without nefarious intent. Continue Reading How to Catch Trade Secret Thieves Who Try to Cover Their Tracks: A Forensic Perspective