Decision overview

On August 7, 2020, the Fifth Circuit addressed an issue presently undecided by the Texas Supreme Court; namely, whether reformation of an overbroad non-compete restriction is appropriate, and perhaps even required, at the preliminary injunction stage or must occur as a remedy after trial upon the merits.

In reversing and remanding the contrary lower court decision that declined to reform an overboard non-compete due to an inadequate record, the Fifth Circuit held that reformation of an overly broad covenant not to compete agreement was warranted at the preliminary injunction stage. Calhoun v. Jack Doheny Companies, Inc., No. 20-20068, — F.3d —, 2020 WL 4557641 (5th Cir. Aug. 7, 2020).
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Holds that Reformation of Texas Non-Competes Is Authorized, and Perhaps Required, at Preliminary Injunction Stage

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

In a rare appellate decision on enforceability of non-disclosure agreements and a plaintiff’s burden to establish the existence of trade secrets, the First Circuit recently overturned a district court summary judgment order and trial verdict. This decision serves as an important reminder for both those who litigate trade secrets claims and those who draft restrictive covenants agreements.

Background

TLS Management and Marketing Services, LLC, a tax planning and consulting firm, sued its former employee, Ricky Rodríguez-Toledo, for alleged misappropriation of trade secrets under Puerto Rico’s misappropriation law and breach of his NDA with TLS. TLS claimed two trade secrets germane to the litigation, the “US Possession Strategy”—essentially a tax arbitrage strategy designed to help clients avoid higher mainland taxes—and “Capital Preservation Reports” or “CPRs,” client-specific reports with tax recommendations based on an analysis of applicable statutes and regulations.
Continue Reading Rare First Circuit Decision Invalidating NDA and Overturning Misappropriation Verdict Serves as a Cautionary Tale

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

Seyfarth partners Robert Milligan and Dawn Mertineit recently recorded a 60-minute webinar for California CLE provider CEB, “Handling a Remote Work Force and Return to Work Considerations in the Age of COVID-19: Best Practices for Protecting Trade Secrets and Confidential Information.”

The course focuses on the best practices and steps companies can take to continue

From court closures and the way judges conduct appearances and trials to the expected wave of lawsuits across a multitude of areas and industries, the COVID-19 outbreak is having a notable impact in the litigation space—and is expected to for quite some time.

To help navigate the litigation landscape, we are kicking off a webinar

Seyfarth Partner and Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Competes Practice Group Co-Chair Katherine Perrelli was recently named chair of the Trade Secrets and Interferences with Contracts Committee of the American Bar Association Intellectual Property Section for the 2020-2021 bar year.

The Trade Secrets and Interferences with Contracts Committee is focused on issues arising under federal,

The 2020 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 fifth consecutive year, our Trade Secrets practice earned Top Tier.

Based on feedback from corporate counsel, Seyfarth partner Michael Wexler was ranked in the editorial’s “Leading Lawyers,” and Robert

Tens of millions of employees have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the reopening process has begun in most states, many of those employees are being rehired and reactivated. For the month of May 2020, the unemployment rate actually started to decline after the massive increase over the prior few months, as businesses began the return to normal and employers who obtained relief from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) restored their workforces to pre-pandemic levels in order to secure loan forgiveness.

One thing that employers may not be considering when they rehire laid off or furloughed employees is what impact this has on prior restrictive covenant agreements with those employees. We previously discussed whether non-competes are enforceable against employees who are laid off. But what about employees who are laid off and then rehired, or furloughed and then reactivated? Are restrictive covenant agreements signed by employees prior to the layoffs or furloughs still enforceable if they ultimately leave and join a competitor down the road? The answer depends on whether the employee was technically, even if temporarily, laid off rather than furloughed, and what state’s law applies.
Continue Reading No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Return to Work May Mean Reduced Protections for Trade Secrets and Customer Goodwill