confidentiality agreements

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

Caramel Crisp LLC, the owner of Garrett Popcorn Shops (“Garrett”), the renowned Chicago-based purveyor of deliciously flavored popcorn, recently filed suit in federal court in Chicago against its former director of research and development, Aisha Putnam, alleging that she misappropriated the company’s trade secrets, including its recipes for Garret’s famous popcorn, after she was fired. Putnam was hired in 2014 and was eventually promoted to the role of Director of Research and Development, where she had access to some of Garrett’s most confidential information and trade secrets. In that role, she was required to sign a confidentiality and non-compete agreement, which, among other things, required her to return all of Garrett’s confidential information upon the termination of her employment.
Continue Reading Get Out Your Popcorn: Former Director of R&D Accused of Stealing Secret Popcorn Recipes

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

Last week, the Ninth Circuit finally ruled that a former Anheuser-Busch employee cannot avoid claims filed by the brewer alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of a nondisclosure agreement, the latest in a long running saga that started when Anheuser-Busch filed suit 6 years ago. Former Anheuser-Busch employee James Clark (“Clark”) had filed a motion to strike the company’s trade secrets claims accusing him of stealing proprietary information under the California Anti-SLAPP statute (“strategic lawsuits against public participation”). 
Continue Reading Former Employee Accused of Spilling Secret Beer Recipe in Furtherance of Class Action Cannot Strike Claims Under Anti-SLAPP Statute

Continuing our annual tradition, we have compiled our top developments and headlines for  2018-2019 in trade secret, non-compete, and computer fraud law.

1. Government Agencies Increasing Scrutiny of Restrictive Covenants

In mid-2018, the Attorneys General of ten states investigated several franchisors for their alleged use of “no poach” provisions in their franchise agreements. In a July 9, 2018, letter, the Attorneys General for New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island requested information from several franchisors about their alleged use of such provisions. Less than twenty-four hours later, some franchisors (mostly different ones than those who received the information demands) entered into agreements with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office to remove such clauses from their franchise agreements. The recent focus by state law enforcement on franchisors is a new twist, given that restrictive covenant agreements in the franchise industry are typically given more leeway than in the employment context.
Continue Reading Top 10 Developments and Headlines in Trade Secret, Non-Compete, and Computer Fraud Law in 2018/2019

Throughout 2018, Seyfarth Shaw’s dedicated Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Competes Practice Group hosted a series of CLE webinars that addressed significant issues facing clients today in this important and ever-changing area of law. The series consisted of seven webinars:

  1. 2017 National Year in Review: What You Need to Know About the Recent Cases/Developments in Trade Secrets, Non-Compete and Computer Fraud Law
  2. Protecting Confidential Information and Client Relationships in the Financial Services Industry
  3. The Anatomy of a Trade Secret Audit
  4. Protecting Trade Secrets from Cyber and Other Threats
  5. 2018 Massachusetts Non-Compete and Trade Secrets Reform
  6. Protecting Trade Secrets Abroad and Enforcing Rights Abroad and in the U.S.
  7. Criminal Trade Secret Theft: What You Need to Know

As a conclusion to this well-received 2018 webinar series, we compiled a list of key takeaway points for each program, which are listed below. For those clients who missed any of the programs in this year’s series, recordings of the webinars are available on the blog, or you may click on the title of each available webinar below for the online recording. Seyfarth Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Compete attorneys are happy to discuss presenting similar presentations to your company for CLE credit. Seyfarth will continue its trade secrets webinar programming in 2019, and we will release the 2019 trade secrets webinar series topics in the coming weeks.
Continue Reading 2018 Trade Secrets and Non-Competes Webinar Series Year in Review

A small, Chicago-based magnetic picture frame developer’s claims for trade secret misappropriation against a photo album manufacturer will be headed to trial after an Illinois federal district court largely denied the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Puroon, Inc.’s (“Puroon”) founder and CEO, Hyunju Song, developed the “Memory Book,” “an all-in-one convertible photo frame, album, and scrapbook” that included magnetic openings and an “interchangeable outside view.” In 2013, Puroon launched a website displaying the Memory Book and Song attended various trade shows where attendees were able to interact with the product. Song also sent samples of the Memory Book to representatives of certain retailers without requiring them to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
Continue Reading Are Mom-and-Pop Companies Treated Differently When it Comes to Abandoning Trade Secrets? A Federal Court in Illinois Says Yes.

In Seyfarth’s sixth installment in its 2018 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Daniel Hart, Marjorie Culver, Alex Meier, and Paul Yovanic Jr. focused on how to identify the greatest threats to trade secrets, tips and best practices for protecting trade secrets abroad, and enforcement mechanisms and remedies.

As a conclusion to this well-received webinar,

Tervis Tumbler Company, the maker of the infamous insulated tumblers, has found itself in hot water with a former supplier, Trinity Graphic. Trinity filed suit in the Middle District of Florida against Tervis and its new supplier, Southern Graphics, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets under both the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) and Florida trade secret statute along with breach of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement, fraud, aiding and abetting, and civil conspiracy. Trinity seeks compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages, disgorgement of profits related to the misappropriation and attorney’s fees and costs.

In support of its claims, Trinity alleges that it “revolutionized” the creation of tumbler inserts with the development of its “Trinity Wrap.” Trinity further alleges that before it created the Trinity Wrap at Tervis’ request, Tervis was limited to the use of “crude and costly embroidery or flat one-sided images.” In creating the Trinity Wrap, Trinity purports to have developed two trade secrets: a printing method that reduces static electricity during the printing process, resulting in increased visual sharpness and a second printing method using a state of the art printer to perfectly align images printed on both sides of a transparent medium.
Continue Reading Popular Insulated Cup Manufacturer in Hot Water over Alleged Trade Secret Misappropriation

Throughout 2017, Seyfarth Shaw’s dedicated Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Competes Practice Group hosted a series of CLE webinars that addressed significant issues facing clients today in this important and ever-changing area of law. The series consisted of six webinars:

  1. 2016 National Year in Review: What You Need to Know About the Recent Cases/Developments in Trade Secrets,
    Non-Compete and Computer Fraud Law
  2. Simple Measures for Protecting Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets
  3. Protecting Confidential Information and Client Relationships in the Financial Services Industry
  4. Protecting Your Trade Secrets in the Pharmaceutical Industry
  5. Trade Secret Protection: What Every Employer Needs to Know
  6. Protecting Trade Secrets in the Social Media Age


Continue Reading 2017 Trade Secrets Webinar Series Year in Review