The much-ballyhooed legal battle over trade secrets concerning self-driving automobile technology involving Uber took its latest (and perhaps final) turn last week, when engineer Anthony Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay over $700,000 in restitution.

Embroiled in the middle of a billion-dollar dispute between tech giants, Levandowski had previously pled guilty to the single count of trade secret theft and was already facing a $179 million judgment awarded to his former tech employer. Naturally, the length of prison sentence and the amount of restitution had been of particular interest to the business and legal communities to see what kind of message would be sent by US District Judge William Aslup. But interestingly, it was another (non-traditional) aspect of the sentence that perhaps sent the clearest and most impactful message to tech companies and their employees: the requirement that Levandowski, whom the judge described as a “good person” and a “brilliant man”, must give speeches to the public entitled “Why I Went to Federal Prison.”
Continue Reading Self-Driving to Federal Prison: The Trade Secret Theft Saga of Anthony Levandowski Continues

The American Intellectual Property Law Association’s (AIPLA) Trade Secret Committee (of which partner Erik Weibust is Vice Chair) is taking its annual Trade Secret Law Summit online this year, with a series of weekly webinars. The first of the series, on Wednesday, August 12, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. EST, features partner Scott Humphrey, who will

At the end of 2019, Coty Inc. (“Coty”) expanded its brand portfolio by closing a notable $600 million deal for a majority stake in reality star Kylie Jenner’s young cosmetics company, King Kylie LLC (d/b/a Kylie Cosmetics). The purchase placed the valuation of the Kylie Cosmetics at $1.2 billion. Drama soon followed the acquisition as reports questioning Ms. Jenner’s net worth (and consequently, the value of her cosmetics empire) surfaced in May 2020, overshadowing Coty’s launch of the Kylie Skin beauty line in Europe. On June 29, 2020, Coty announced a 21% investment in KKW Beauty (Ms. Jenner’s sister’s company) for $200 million. Prompted by these deals, the manufacturer behind both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW, Seed Beauty, LLC, filed two trade secret lawsuits in Superior Court in Los Angeles, California.
Continue Reading Not so Pretty: Cosmetic Company Acquisitions Lead to Contentious Trade Secret Spat

The American Intellectual Property Law Association’s Trade Secret Summit will be held virtually this year. The Summit will consist of two 45-minute presentations every Wednesday beginning on August 12 and ending on September 2. Erik Weibust is Vice Chair of the AIPLA’s Trade Secret Committee, which hosts the Summit each year, and Scott Humphrey will

Seyfarth partners Erik Weibust, Jeremy Cohen, Scott Humphrey, and Marcus Mintz recently published an article entitled “Protecting Trade Secrets Without Breaking the Bank (or Even Negatively Affecting Profits)” in the Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal. The article addresses the use of litigation funding in trade secret cases.

The Intellectual Property & Technology Law

Social distancing, a term which few of us had heard of before this year (despite the fact that it has been used since at least the early 2000s), is stretching into its third month. Notwithstanding some loosening of shelter-in-place advisories, and the fact that some employers are starting to open up offices and invite their workforce back in, a majority of employees are still working from home. This has broad implications for protection of employers’ trade secrets and confidential information—in many cases, a company’s most precious asset.
Continue Reading Security From Afar: How Best to Protect Trade Secrets in a World of Remote Working, Zoombombing, and Uncertainty

As a special feature of our blog—guest postings by experts, clients, and other professionals—please enjoy this blog entry from Hon. Elizabeth D. Laporte (Ret.)

Trade secret litigation in California is growing, in both volume and impact. The second-largest plaintiffs’ verdict in 2019 was $845 million, as reported by the Daily Journal, which was awarded to ASML, a Dutch semiconductor chip processing software company, in its case against XTAL, a company founded by two ex-employees of the plaintiff’s subsidiary in Santa Clara who allegedly worked in secret for XTAL using stolen trade secrets to get a head start in development and siphon off a major customer contract (ASML US Inc. v. XTAL Inc.). Another large verdict was a $66 million jury award, including a worldwide injunction, given to a San Jose LED manufacturer that sued a company for allegedly poaching its top scientist so that it could transfer its technology to China (Lumileds LLC v. Elec-Tech International Co. Ltd.). In these types of cases, plaintiffs have the advantage of being able to craft a compelling narrative of theft—most commonly, former employees surreptitiously appropriating the plaintiff company’s trade secrets for their own benefit in a rival venture—and to overcome employees’ general freedom to switch employers under California law, which voids almost all non-compete agreements (Bus. & Prof. Code Sec. 16600) and does not recognize the doctrine of inevitable disclosure (Schlage Lock Company v. Whyte, 101 Cal.App.4th 1443 (2002)). Moreover, trade secrets do not expire automatically; they allow broad protection without disclosure, unlike copyrights and patents.
Continue Reading Trade Secret Litigation on the Rise in California: How ADR Can Help

As a special feature of our blog—guest postings by experts, clients, and other professionals—please enjoy this blog entry from Neil Eisgruber, Director in the Disputes, Compliance & Investigations group at Stout.

For decades, companies have turned to federal courts to protect valuable business assets, such as trade secrets. Legal action has expanded over the years and recent trends have set the foundation for a continuing surge in federal trade secret litigation.
Continue Reading Trade Secret Litigation: Activity on the Rise

On Thursday, April 23 at 12 p.m. Central, Seyfarth attorneys Erik Weibust, Marcus Mintz, and Jeremy Cohen are presenting Weathering the COVID-19 Storm With Your Trade Secrets and Customer Goodwill Intact, a webinar is Seyfarth’s Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic Webinar Series.

COVID-19 has changed the way most companies are currently doing business, from requiring

When the COVID-19 crisis hit the United States (indeed, before it was even considered a “crisis” here), we provided tips for protecting a company’s trade secrets in the event employees were permitted to work from home. In the ensuing three weeks, not only have employees been permitted to work from home, but many companies have required it. Indeed, an ever-growing list of states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have issued stay-at-home orders and shut down all non-essential businesses for the time being. As a result, there are now millions of employees working remotely who are accustomed to working in an office setting. Indeed, according to a March 12, 2020, flash survey of more than 550 employers conducted by Seyfarth, nearly 85% of responding companies were actively encouraging employees to work from home in some or all parts of the country, and more than 65% were taking steps to provide capability for employees to be able to work from home who do not normally do so. Those numbers are likely even higher now.
Continue Reading Protecting Trade Secrets During a Pandemic: Think Twice Before Loosening Security Measures in the Name of Convenience and Efficiency