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

On April 16, 2020, the White House issued its “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” and several states have begun a slow process of emerging from the shutdown. But even the most optimistic scenarios are fraught with uncertainty. Nobody can predict when the economy will fully reopen, or what that even means in the post-COVID-19 business world. Will increased remote work become the “new normal”? Will business meetings, pitches, and conferences, continue to take place by videoconference or other remote means? What about investigations, depositions, mediations, and court proceedings? And how long will all of that last? We also do not know when the next pandemic will strike, or even if COVID-19 will rear its ugly head again in the near future.
Continue Reading Normalizing the Abnormal—Protecting Trade Secrets in a Post-COVID-19 World

On Thursday, April 23 at 12 p.m. Central, Seyfarth attorneys Erik Weibust, Marcus Mintz, and Jeremy Cohen are presenting Weathering the COVID-19 Storm With Your Trade Secrets and Customer Goodwill Intact, a webinar is Seyfarth’s Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic Webinar Series.

COVID-19 has changed the way most companies are currently doing business, from requiring

As we previously reported,  as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, courts across the country are adjourning most appearances, including trials, and hearing only “emergency matters,” often by teleconference or other remote methods. This presents a new quandary for trade secret and restrictive covenant lawyers, who regularly must seek emergency injunctive relief to protect their clients’ trade secrets and customer goodwill. But it does not follow that these lawyers should be careless about when to seek emergency relief; in fact, quite the opposite, they must be more diligent in that regard during the current pandemic.
Continue Reading Prior Ruling on What Constitutes a Litigation “Emergency” May Not Be a Unicorn After All

Imagine this scenario: You are the general counsel of a company in a particularly competitive industry. A key company employee who has access to some of the company’s most sensitive information has been working remotely for the last three weeks as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and the employee exploits the opportunity to print or download confidential company information to a personal device, including customer lists and product specifications. The employee then gives notice and immediately begins employment with a direct competitor and begins soliciting your top customers. You consult with outside counsel who drafts a complaint and motion for preliminary injunctive relief and expedited discovery. But, as a result of COVID-19, you cannot obtain emergency relief, or the ability to do so is severely limited. What do you do?
Continue Reading Preparing for Trade Secret and Restrictive Covenant Litigation While the Court Near You is Closed

Seyfarth Synopsis: A recent case out of the Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas highlights the challenges in proving liability against a third-party competitor for knowing participation in breach of duty of loyalty/fiduciary duty, tortious interference with contract, and conspiracy when the third-party competitor participates in the solicitation of current employees. The Court’s opinion emphasizes that although an employee owes a duty of loyalty to her current employer, current employees can generally plan to compete—and communicate among themselves to do so—while still employed. The decision further illustrates the difficulty in proving a third-party competitor participated in any unlawful plans to compete, without some evidence showing the competitor had knowledge of the departing employees’ restrictive covenants and directing the wrongful acts. As such, the opinion demonstrates the importance of enforceable non-compete, non-solicit, and confidentiality agreements with key employees.

One of the worst case scenarios for a company is an entire team—including high level executives—jumping ship to a competitor, and directly competing against the former employer in the same space and market. A recent decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas provides an interesting look into just such a situation, and it reinforces that it is difficult for a company to recoup its damages after a max exodus of employees if it hasn’t taken the necessary precautions ahead of time.
Continue Reading A Herculean Task: Proving a Competitor’s Knowledge and Participation in an Unfair Competition Case

As we previously reported, on February 18, 2020, Medterra CBD (“Medterra”) filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that it had misappropriated Healthcare Resources Management Group LLC’s (“Healthcare Resources”) proprietary formula for a CBD cream aimed at treating pain. In its motion, Medterra argued that Healthcare Resources failed to allege that it had provided or that Medterra had otherwise acquired any proprietary information. Additionally, Medterra claims that even if Healthcare Resources could establish that it had provided its propriety CBD cream formula to Medterra, Healthcare Resources did not take adequate steps to protect its trade secret by mandating Medterra sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Continue Reading CBD Cream Manufacturer Responds to Motion to Dismiss in Trade Secret Litigation

In 2012, Peloton rode into the home fitness scene with its now ubiquitous at-home exercise bike, which features a tablet that allows riders to stream both live and pre-recorded classes while competing against other riders on a virtual leaderboard. Peloton built the bike, including the associated technology and software, from scratch, and applied for and obtained a number of patents between 2015 and 2019 to protect its sizable investment of both time and money.

In 2017, Flywheel, a boutique exercise studio, pedaled into the home fitness scene as well with the FLY Anywhere bike. Like Peloton users, FLY Anywhere riders stream both live and pre-recorded classes while pedaling their way up the leaderboard.
Continue Reading Peloton Surges to the Top of the Leaderboard in Competitor Spat

On February 18, 2020, Medterra CBD filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that it had misappropriated Healthcare Resources Management Group LLC’s (“Healthcare Resource”) proprietary formula for a CBD cream aimed at treating pain. In its motion, Medterra argued that Healthcare Resource failed to allege that it had provided or that Medterra had otherwise acquired any proprietary information. Additionally, Medterra claims that even if Healthcare Resource could establish that it had provided its propriety CBD cream formula to Medterra, Healthcare Resource did not take adequate steps to protect its trade secret by mandating Medterra sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Continue Reading CBD Company Files Motion to Dismiss in Trade Secret Dispute

As a special feature of our blog—guest postings by experts, clients, and other professionals—please enjoy this blog entry from Donal O’Connell, Managing Director of Chawton Innovation Services Ltd.

One of the key pieces of legislation related to trade secrets in Russia is the Federal Law of July 29, 2004 on Commercial Secrecy. This was passed by the State Duma on July 9, 2004, and endorsed by the Federation Council on July 15, 2004.

This piece of legislation consists of the following articles or sections …

  • Goals and scope of this federal law
  • Laws of the Russian Federation on commercial secrecy
  • Basic notions used in this federal law (including the definition of a trade secret as well as some details on the handling of trade secrets in agreements)
  • Right to classify information as information constituting a commercial secret and methods of obtaining that information
  • Data that may not constitute a commercial secret (i.e. what information may not be considered as a trade secret)
  • Supply of information constituting a commercial secret (i.e. under what circumstances may a trade secret owner have to divulge the information)
  • Protection of the confidentiality of information
  • Protection of the confidentiality of information within the framework of employee or labour relations
  •  Protection of the confidentiality of information as it is passed over to for example state authorities
  • Responsibility for violation of this Federal law (i.e. the various penalties for misappropriation)
  • Responsibility for non-provision of information constituting a commercial secret to the state power bodies, other state authorities, bodies of local self-government

Definition of a Trade Secret


Continue Reading Trade Secret Law in Russia