On January 23, 2020, the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas retracted its previous ruling in the trade secrets dispute Goldberg, et al. v. EMR (USA Holdings) Inc., et al. and issued a new opinion upon rehearing. In doing so, the Court reversed course on its previous ruling that communications with customers and suppliers involved a matter of public concern and were an exercise of free speech.

The Court’s new ruling, which was decided under the pre-September 1, 2019, version of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”), makes clear that communications between a company and customers or suppliers that deal only with the sale of a commodity are not protected by the TCPA.[1]

The August 2019 Ruling
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Effective on September 1, 2019, the 86th Texas Legislature’s amendments to the Texas Citizen’s Participation Act, Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code Chapter 27 (“TCPA”) essentially removed the vast majority trade secret claims from the TCPA’s grasp.[1] These amendments intentionally sought to eliminate the application of the TCPA, an anti-SLAPP statute[2] to certain run-of-the-mill trade secret cases with fact patters arising from independent contractor relationships and departing employees. Nevertheless, the TCPA may apply in light of past precedent to other, less common fact patterns. This article explores other trade secret claims that may still be “slapped” under the TCPA.
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In a trilogy of recent cases, the Texas Courts of Appeals have employed the “commercial speech” exception to exclude certain business claims from the scope of the Texas Citizen’s Participation Act (“TCPA”). This trend will likely only accelerate now that the legislature has further reduced the TCPA’s reach with additional statutory changes, restricting the protections regarding the right of association and the TCPA’s application to trade secret cases and non-compete cases.

Background

The TCPA is an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute allowing litigants to seek early dismissal of a lawsuit if the legal action is based on, or is in response to, a party’s exercise of the right of free speech, right to petition, or right of association. Like other states, Texas enacted the TCPA to address concerns over the increasing use of lawsuits to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights.
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On August 23, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit ruled that the Texas Citizen’s Participation Act, Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code Chapter 27 (“TCPA”), did not apply in federal court. Klocke v. Watson, 936 F.3d 240, 244 (5th Cir. 2019). Nine days later, on September 1, 2019, key statutory changes went into effect for cases filed after the amendments’ enactment.[1] See H.B. 2730, Sept. 1, 2019. These amendments changed the requirements of the TCPA in several ways, some of which the Klocke panel had directly addressed when determining the TCPA’s applicability in federal court.

The question therefore arises whether the TCPA remains inapplicable in federal court for cases filed after September 1, 2019.[2] A Fifth Circuit panel addressing this issue today, and applying the rulings in Klocke, would likely rule that the TPCA remains inapplicable. Specifically, despite the various changes, the TCPA still “imposes evidentiary weighing requirements not found in the Federal Rules, and operates largely without pre-decisional discovery[.]” Klocke, 936 F.3d at 246. Accordingly, the TCPA “conflicts with those rules,” “answers the same question” as those rules, and therefore “cannot apply in federal court.” Id. at 244, 245, 246.
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On August 23, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its long-awaited opinion in Klocke v. Watson, 17-11320, 2019 WL 3977545, at *1 (5th Cir. Aug. 23, 2019), holding that the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) does not apply to diversity cases in federal court. This decision settles a split manifested across dozens of cases at the district courts.

By ruling that the TCPA does not apply to diversity cases in federal court, the Fifth Circuit foreclosed an otherwise potent weapon used by defendants throughout Texas in trade secrets litigation. Because of the TCPA’s extremely broad application, defendants in trade secrets cases, for example, often asserted that claims alleging the misappropriation of trade secrets and related causes of action were based on and related to the defendant’s freedom to speak freely on all topics, including the trade secrets at issue, and its freedom to associate with competitors, and therefore such claims should be dismissed under the TCPA. Such arguments are now foreclosed by this ruling, at least in federal court.
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Cross-Posted from The Global Privacy Watch Blog

In Part 1 of our ‘Texas Joins the Privacy Fray’ series, we focused on the Texas Consumer Privacy Act. Here, we shine the light on the Texas Privacy Protection Act (HB 4390).

The TXPPA is distinguishable from both the TXCPA and the CCPA because the applicability threasholds are different. For the TXPPA to apply, a business must 1) be doing business in Texas; 2) have more than 50 employees; 3) collect personally identifiable information (“PII”) of more than 5,000 individuals, households, or devices (or has it collected on the business’s behalf); and 4) meet one of the following two criteria—the business’ annual gross revenue exceeds $25 million; or the business derives 50% or more of its annual revenue from processing PII.
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Cross-Posted from The Global Privacy Watch Blog

Last month, Texas saw the introduction of not one, but TWO privacy bills in the Texas state legislature: The Texas Consumer Privacy Act (TXCPA) and the Texas Privacy Protection Act (TXPPA). With news of this likely meeting with a collective groan and shoulder shrug, we do have some good news for you.

Both bills’ foundations are set with familiar CA Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) language. Unfortunately, this is also bad news because they both suffer from the same problems found in the CCPA – we’ll explain below. It’s also still early in the game, with the bills having just been filed in the state legislature. Given that there is time in the legislative session for amendments to be made and especially considering the ‘ring-side’ view Texas lawmakers have to the CA legislative and Attorney General rule/procedure process currently unfolding, it would be unreasonable not to expect changes. Finally, the bills are reactive responses to the national (or international) focus on privacy issues of late and may allow impacted businesses a grace period, as we’ve seen in the CCPA. In this blog, we shine the light on the first of these bills: The Texas Consumer Privacy Act.
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On November 13, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, affirmed the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas’s denial of prevailing party attorneys’ fees in a matter of first impression under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”). In short, the Fifth Circuit held that a dismissal without prejudice of a DTSA case does not support an award of prevailing party attorney’s fees.
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The Texas Court of Appeals, Third District, issued an opinion in Tejas Vending, LP, et al. v. Tejas Promotions, LLC further delineating the applicability of Texas’s anti-SLAPP statute, the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”). The Court emphasized that the TCPA was applicable to a conspiracy to misappropriate trade secrets claim, but found that it did not apply to requests for declaratory relief. This holding serves as a reminder that anti-SLAPP statutes can be a powerful shield in misappropriation of trade secret cases, particularly when such cases involve claims for an alleged conspiracy.
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Earlier this month, the Texarkana Court of Appeals took the extraordinary measure of affirming an award of plaintiff attorney’s fees against a defendant for willful and malicious misappropriation of trade secrets in an amount that was ultimately more than 50 times higher than the plaintiff’s actual awarded damages.

Samuel D. Orbison worked for an oil and gas company, Ma-Tex Rope Company, Inc., for five years and signed an employment agreement containing a non-competition agreement, a non-disclosure agreement, and a non-solicitation agreement. During his tenure with Ma-Tex, Orbison became the coordinator of Ma-Tex’s recertification department until he resigned and began working for its competitor, American Pipe Inspections, Inc. (API), in the same position he had filled with Ma-Tex. When Ma-Tex learned that Orbison had begun soliciting recertification work from Ma-Tex’s customers, it sued Orbison and API for, among other claims, breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets.
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