I start by warning you that this case is old, over 5 years old, in fact. However, when it arrived in my regular e-mail of case synopses, I thought I would take a look, and given the long, slow holiday week, I thought it might have a nugget to share and to keep in mind as we go into 2010.
The case, The Newark Group, Inc. v. Sauter, Civ. Action No. C2:01-CV-1247, 2004 WL 5782100 (S.D. Ohio), was pending back in 2004. This particular opinion, on Defendants’ motion to strike Plaintiff’s jury demand, was decided in April 2004. Nevertheless, I think the point the court makes may be helpful.
The question before the court on Defendant’s motion was whether the plaintiff was entitled to a trial by jury on its claims for damages in a trade secrets case under a theory of unjust enrichment. Defendants argued that under a trade secret case, an unjust enrichment claim was nothing more than a claim in equity, not triable to a jury.
The court easily rejected the claim under Ohio’s Trade Secret Misappropriation Act. In explaining its decision, the court noted that the trade secret statute provides several methods by which to calculate damages, including unjust enrichment. And, that the statute
acknowledges that calculating monetary damages for trade secret misappropriation may be difficult to ascertain, it therefore provides specific methods by which to calculate monetary damages. One method for measuring damages is by calculating the amount of unjust enrichment caused by such misappropriation. The fact that the statute contemplates different means of calculating damages does not transform the statutorily created legal theory of recovery . . . to become an equitable claim to relief.
The other two methods of calculating damages: actual loss caused by the misappropriation and imposition of a reasonable royalty also are not equitable relief, just other methods of calculating the monetary damages available to a successful plaintiff. Even though the statute refers to "equitable," it means fair. The damages remedies are legal in nature and thus triable to a jury — even if difficult to ascertain.
Happy New Year to all!