A federal court in Texas recently provided useful insights on what constitutes “solicitation” by a former employee under that employee’s restrictive covenant with his former employer, and the court provided further insights on what inferences courts will, and will not, draw in favor of a plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction based on alleged misappropriation of trade secrets.[1]

The defendant worked for the plaintiff, Sunbelt, for over twenty years, primarily as a salesperson covering institutional customers.[2] As part of his employment, the defendant signed an employment agreement that, among other things, prohibited him from “solicit[ing]” Sunbelt’s customers or competing with Sunbelt within a certain geographic area.[3] He later left to join one of Sunbelt’s competitors. Sunbelt filed suit and sought a preliminary injunction, asserting that the employed had, among other things, solicited Sunbelt’s former customers, worked for Sunbelt’s competitor within the area prohibited by the non-competition agreement, and misappropriated Sunbelt’s trade secrets.[4]
Continue Reading Federal Court Provides Insight on Meaning of “Solicitation” and Plaintiff’s Burden on Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Seyfarth attorneys published in IP LitigatorSeyfarth partner Jesse Coleman and associate Kevin Green authored an IP Litigator article focused on a recent DTSA/TUTSA lawsuit which involved the public disclosure of alleged trade secret in an expired patent. Read the full article from the March / April 2022 edition of IP Litigator here.
Continue Reading Seyfarth Attorneys Author Article on Texas Trade Secret Lawsuit

After a four day bench trial on August 10, 2021, a Houston federal judge ruled that the conceptual designs an oil and gas manufacturing company disclosed to its erstwhile collaborator under an NDA were not eligible for trade secret protection because they were neither secret nor misappropriated due predominantly to disclosure in a prior public patent. The ruling underscores the necessity that trade secrets are—in fact—kept actually secret. Moreover, any prior patent of the party seeking to protect its trade secrets should be scrutinized for similarity with the technology or information allegedly comprising a trade secret.
Continue Reading Texas Oil & Gas Manufacturing Company’s DTSA/TUTSA Lawsuit Unraveled by Public Disclosure of Alleged Trade Secret in its Own Expired Patent

In the fourth installment of our 2021 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Jesse Coleman, Matt Simmons, and Kevin Green outlined recent legal developments in Texas trade secret and non-compete law and how it is similar to and diverse from other jurisdictions. The webinar also covered how these latest developments impact counseling, litigation, and deals involving companies with employees based
Continue Reading Webinar Recap! How and Why Texas is Different When it Comes to Trade Secrets and Non-Competes

With unemployment levels reaching a new high during the global pandemic, courts across the country have become increasingly reluctant to enforce non-compete agreements in employment contracts. As an example, a recent district court case, Robert Garcia v. USA Industries, Inc., demonstrates what may be a shift in Texas’ formerly lenient approach to non-competes. There, the court granted the plaintiff’s request for a temporary restraining order against the non-compete clause in his severance agreement, finding not only that there was inadequate consideration to enforce the non-compete provision, but that the provision itself was unreasonable. While this is only one case, in light of this shift in the interpretation of non-compete agreements as reflected in this decision, companies should ensure that their non-competes are reasonable as to scope and time, supported by adequate consideration, and narrowly tailored to protect the company’s legitimate business interests so as to increase the chances of the agreement being upheld. This will only become more important as more and more states pass restrictive covenants legislation limiting what is permissible.
Continue Reading Texas Decision Highlights Concerns Regarding Limiting Enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements During COVID-19 Pandemic

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In this fourth installment of our 2021 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, our team will cover recent legal developments in Texas trade secret and non-compete law and how it is similar
Continue Reading Upcoming Webinar! How and Why Texas is Different When it Comes to Trade Secrets and Non-Competes

After a months-long delay due to an outbreak of COVID-19 during the first trial, a federal jury in Texas awarded a $152 million verdict—including $120 million in punitive damages—in a trade secret misappropriation case between rival software development companies.

Case Summary

In 2019, software company ResMan LLC (“Resman”) sued its former customer Karya Property Management LLC (“Karya”), alleging that Karya provided its third party software consultant, co-defendant Expedien, with unauthorized access to Resman’s trade secrets in order to help it develop a competing product. Resman’s proprietary software is used to manage apartment buildings throughout the United States. In the breach-of-contract lawsuit, Resman alleged Karya gave Expedien access to its trade secrets so that it could develop its own rival property management software.
Continue Reading Texas Federal Jury Awards $152 Million in Trade Secret Misappropriation Case Interrupted by COVID-19

Real estate startup HouseCanary made headlines when it secured a $700 million judgment against Title Source, Inc., now known as Amrock, in a trade secrets misappropriation case. In short, HouseCanary claimed that Amrock misappropriated its trade secrets to develop an app to compete with the very product Amrock hired HouseCanary to create—a product HouseCanary never delivered.
Continue Reading HouseCanary Weighs a Bird in Hand… Collect on a $201,000,000 Judgment or Retry the Entire Case

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 “return to normal” in courts across the country has brought with it a flurry of trade secrets decisions that address some interesting and instructive issues, both procedurally and substantively. In the last ten days alone, courts in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Texas have weighed in on issues such as the specificity necessary to assert a viable trade secrets claim, the enforceability of a restrictive covenant against an employee who is laid off temporarily but quickly finds a new role and is rehired by the same organization, and the validity of a $700,000,000 jury verdict that was based on a jury question that combined multiple theories of liability. Let’s take a look:
Continue Reading Courts Across the Country Continue to Address Trade Secrets Issues