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

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses around the world had been bracing for the financial and operational impact of the new California Consumers Privacy Act (“CCPA”), which took effect January 1, 2020. Despite existing and ongoing uncertainty around how to comply and interpret the law, the courts had already began seeing private class actions brought under the CCPA (or using the CCPA as a placeholder with Business and Professions Code Section 17200 and tort claims) filed in February—each presenting interesting and far-reaching legal questions about the new law.
Continue Reading The Impact of COVID-19 on the California Consumer Privacy Act

Seyfarth attorneys Robert Milligan, John Tomaszewski, and Darren Dummit are presenting “The California Consumer Privacy Act – What It Is and What Clients Need to Know, Particularly in Light of COVID-19,” a webinar for ITechLaw on April 7, 2020, at 9 a.m. Central.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect on January 1,

The Ninth Circuit has certified questions to the California Supreme Court in Ixchel Pharma v. Biogen seeking guidance as to: 1) whether section 16600 of the California Business and Professions Code extends to contracts between businesses; and 2) whether pleading an independent wrongful act is necessary to state a claim for intentional interference with a contract outside the at-will employment contract context. The California Supreme Court has agreed to accept the Ninth Circuit’s inquiry and the appellate briefing was recently completed. We expect the Supreme Court to have oral argument and likely rule in the summer or fall of 2020. The California Supreme Court’s disposition of the novel issues could have sweeping ramifications that ripple through commercial and business industries.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Seeks Guidance From California Supreme Court on Business to Business Non-Competes

Continuing our annual tradition, we have compiled our top developments and headlines for 2019 & 2020 in trade secret, non-compete, and computer fraud law. Here’s what you need to know to keep abreast of the ever-changing law in this area.

1. Another Year, Another Attempt in Congress to Ban Non-Competes Nationwide

Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced legislation in 2019 entitled the Workforce Mobility Act (“WMA”). The WMA seeks to ban non-compete agreements outside of the sale of a business or dissolution of a partnership.

Not only would the WMA abolish covenants not to compete nationwide, outside of the extremely narrow exceptions highlighted above, but it would also provide the Department of Labor (DOL) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with broad enforcement power. If enacted, the legislation would empower the FTC and DOL to enforce the ban through fines on employers who either fail to notify employees that non-compete agreements are illegal or who require employees to sign covenants not to compete. Additionally, the WMA establishes a private right of action for all employees allegedly aggrieved by a violation of the WMA.

The WMA contains a carve out for parties to enter into an agreement to protect trade secrets. As currently drafted, the WMA does not abrogate the scope of protections provided by the Defend Trade Secrets Act.

Presently, there are no generally applicable federal restrictions on non-compete agreements, and enacting such a law would have to pass Constitutional muster. We expect to see continued activity at the federal legislative level to attempt to ban or limit the use of non-competes.

2. New State Legislation Regarding Restrictive Covenants


Continue Reading Top 10 Developments and Headlines in Trade Secret, Non-Compete, and Computer Fraud Law for 2019 & 2020

Seyfarth Synopsis: Knowledge that a competitor or former employee is misappropriating trade secrets is difficult to come by. At the same time, however, once a company has notice that misappropriation may be occurring, the statute of limitations begins to run on any trade secrets misappropriation claim. A recent decision from the California Court of Appeals reinforces these rules and provides a good reminder of the need to take proactive steps to protect any possible claims.

When a competitor or former employee misappropriates a company’s trade secrets, the company often does not know for an extended period of time. This is especially true when the perpetrator takes action to conceal its misappropriation. For these reasons, the statute of limitations only starts to run once the company knows or should have known of the misappropriation. But this rule is not a universal remedy; companies should be aware that once they have sufficient knowledge that misappropriation may be occurring, they must take action or risk the running of the statute of limitations. A recent decision from the California Court of Appeals reinforces these principles.
Continue Reading A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing: Beware the Statute of Limitations in Trade Secrets Misappropriation Cases

Cross-posted from The Global Privacy Watch blog. 

Attorney General Becerra’s office posted the long-awaited draft CCPA regulations a little before 2:00 pm (PST) October 10th. It was a bit of a curve ball, to be perfectly honest (considering the final swath of amendments to the CCPA are not even final until Governor Newsom signs them, or on October 13th). Tellingly, the California Administrative Procedure Act requires the California Department of Finance to approve “major regulations” (and they have 30 days to do that) prior to publication. Based on this, it would seem that these regulations were drafted prior to the amendments to the CCPA going through the legislature. This does not seem like an effective way to draft regulations, but hey, no one should tell the AG he shouldn’t jump the gun! They are now out there so, one reviews anyway.

Topping out at a modest 24 pages (the CCPA itself is 19 pages), the regulations are organized into seven articles. We’re directing our comments to the issues that pop out to us initially, and as always, we’ll post further observations as things progress.
Continue Reading And the Wait for CCPA Rules is Over …. Kind Of

Even before the California Supreme Court decided Edwards in 2008, employers knew all too well the woes of attempting to enforce non-competes against California employees.  Edwards simply reaffirmed California’s long-standing policy in favor of employee mobility, finding that employee non-competition agreements are typically void in California unless they fall within one of the exceptions to Business and Professions Code section 16600.  But this need not become the fate of every non-compete; notwithstanding Edwards and recent California decisions applying the state’s notorious statute, section 16600, it may be possible for employers to enforce non-competition forfeiture provisions by including them in deferred compensation top hat plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
Continue Reading Not All Is Lost for California Employers: Enforce Non-Compete Forfeiture Provisions through ERISA Top Hat Plans?

The American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) will host its annual Spring Meeting in Philadelphia on May 15-17, 2019.

Loews Philadelphia Hotel
200 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Seyfarth Partner John Tomaszewski is on the panel for “The California Privacy Act of 2018: A Review of California’s New Privacy Law and Tips for Implementing Compliance

A California federal district court recently granted a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) against a former employee for misappropriating proprietary and confidential information in violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”), the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”), and company confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements. Bemis Co., Inc. v. Summers, No. 219CV00344TLNKJN, 2019 WL 1004853, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 28, 2019).

Background

Plaintiff Bemis Company, Inc. (“Bemis”) sued a former employee for trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract. Bemis is one of the largest global suppliers of flexible and rigid packaging products, including snack food bags, candy wrappers, cheese packaging, hot dog packaging, medicine packaging, and much more.
Continue Reading That’s a Wrap: California Federal Court Grants TRO Against Former Employee for Trade Secret Misappropriation