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Posts Tagged: "Defend Trade Secrets Act"

Ex Parte Seizures Five Years After the Enactment of the Defend Trade Secrets Act

Almost five years has passed since the enactment of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) on May 11, 2016, which provides for civil relief for the theft of trade secrets. The most controversial provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1836(b)(2), authorizes a federal court to issue an order, in extraordinary circumstances, and upon an ex parte application based on an affidavit or verified complaint, to provide for seizure of property necessary to preserve evidence or to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret. Thus, the issuance of a seizure order is limited to “extraordinary circumstances.” According to the House Report, the “ex parte seizure provision is expected to be used in instances in which a defendant is seeking to flee the country or planning to disclose the trade secret to a third party immediately or is otherwise not amenable to the enforcement of the court’s orders.” In other words, it is intended to stop the dissemination of a trade secret, especially overseas, before its value has been lost through public disclosure. Thus, it provides a trade secret owner with the ability to mitigate the risk that trade secrets are irrevocably lost, transferred, or moved beyond the jurisdiction of the court.

Take Heed: Lessons from the Top Trade Secret Cases of 2020

One of the uniquely fascinating aspects of trade secret disputes is that they are laced with unbridled emotions, accusations of treachery, and actors who angrily disagree over basic facts. In other words, they provide a perfect metaphor for the year 2020. Let’s take a look back at the cases this year that are worthy of comment, either because they involved some unusual set of facts or because they provide useful guidance for behaving better in 2021.

Defending Trade Secrets with Protective Orders

Plaintiffs in trade secret cases are often faced with the difficulty of protecting their trade secrets, especially during trial, when different rules apply than during the pre-trial proceedings. It certainly makes little sense for a party to seek to prevent a defendant from disclosing their trade secrets only to have them disclosed to the public during discovery or trial. In recognition of this dilemma, Congress included Section 1835(b) (“Rights of Trade Secrets Owners) in the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which seeks to address this issue by requiring district courts to permit the trade secret owner the “the opportunity to file a submission under seal that describes the interest of the owner in keeping the information confidential.”

Gathering Business Data? Be Careful, Mom is Watching – A Comment on Data Scraping and the Compulife Case

When people say that “data is the new oil,” they’re talking about new ways of creating wealth. No matter what business you’re in, success today depends on learning everything you can about your customers and competitors. And there’s so much information sloshing around the internet, every industry—from restaurants to manufacturers to sports teams—is busy extracting insights from “big data” analysis. But, like drilling for oil, prospecting for data sometimes gets your hands dirty. Recently, a court ruled that a startup company providing life insurance quotes to consumers had created its database – the engine of its busines – by taking data from an existing company (Compulife) that had built theirs from scratch.

Trade Secrets Lessons from Epic Systems v. Tata Consultancy Services

On August 20, the Seventh Circuit in Epic Systems Corp. v. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd & Tata America Interntional Corp d/b/a/ TCS America No. 1950 (7th Cir. Aug. 20, 2020) upheld an award of damages against Tata for theft of trade secrets relating to Epic’s health care software. After a jury trial in 2016, a jury found that Tata must pay $240 million in a compensatory damages to Epic, and $700 million in punitive damages. The district court later struck $100 million in compensatory damages and reduced the punitive damage award from $700 million to $280 million under a Wisconsin statute that caps punitive damage awards at two times compensatory damages. In the August 20 decision, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court that the jury could award punitive damages but found that the $280 million punitive damages amount was excessive and remanded the case with instructions to reduce that award.

A Dubious Decision: Eleventh Circuit Finds Scraping of Data from a Public Website Can Constitute Theft of Trade Secrets (Part I)

Much has already been written in a relatively short period of time since the Eleventh Circuit decided Compulife Software, Inc. v. Newman, __ F.3d __, 2020 WL 2549505, (11th Cir. May 20, 2020). However, such commentaries have not addressed whether this decision is legally supportable and whether other circuits should follow this decision, which would provide a legal basis for website operators under certain circumstances to pursue unwarranted scraping of their websites. This is particularly important because the Supreme Court is currently considering whether to grant certiorari in a case involving whether website scraping is legal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Depending on the outcome of this matter, website operators may be extremely restricted to prevent scraping under that statute.

Trade Secret Litigation Reports: Four Years After the Enactment of the Defend Trade Secrets Act

On May 11, 2016, President Obama signed into the law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) which extended the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA), which provides a broad basis for civil federal jurisdiction for the theft of trade secret thefts. Thus, trade secret owners can sue in federal court so long as there is a connection between the trade secret and interstate or foreign commerce. However, the DTSA does not preempt states laws and parties can still bring an action under a state’s version of the Uniform Trade Secret Law. Two recent reports highlight a number of significant findings that are relevant to companies looking to protect and defend their trade secrets: In April 2020, finance consulting firm Stout Risius Ross, LLC published its 2020 “Trends in Trade Secret Litigation Report (the SR) and Lex Machina released its 2020 Trade Secret Litigation Report (LMR), in which it summarized data from the past decade and compared it against data from the previous year’s report.

The Fragile Nature of Trade Secrets: Clues from the Courts on How to Keep Them

Trade secrets have become an increasingly valuable asset to many companies, but compared to other types of intellectual property, including patents, copyrights and trademarks, they are extremely “fragile,” and require that an owner undertake as many steps as possible to protect their information and be vigilant about the need to protect such information to the fullest extent possible. The failure to do so may lead to a court’s finding in a misappropriation case that the information in question is not protectable as a trade secret. As described below, it is very easy for trade secrets to lose protection under a variety of circumstances, even where the owner has taken what it believes are “reasonable measures” as required for trade secret protection under 18 U.S.C. § 1839(3)(A. In short, authorities in this area teach that the more steps a party undertakes to protect its trade secrets, the more likely that a court will find those steps to constitute “reasonable measures.”

Review of Key 2019 Trade Secret Decisions and Trends (Part II)

Part I of this series covered (1) Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, 139  S.Ct. 2356 (2020) in which the Supreme Court held that commercial or financial information that is customarily and actually treated as private by its owner and provided to the government under an assurance of privacy is “confidential” under exemption 4 to the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore shielded from disclosure; (2) trade secret cases dismissed on the statute of limitations; (3) improper acts for unclean hands doctrine must be related to the misappropriation claim; (4) the Department of Justice’s continued and increasing focus on theft of trade secrets involving a Chinese connection; and (5) award of “head start” damages. In Part II, we will look at some additional important 2019 trade secret decisions and trends.

Seven Steps to Address Trade Secret Misappropriation by Whistleblowers

The primary purpose of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) is to provide federal remedies to individuals and companies that have had their trade secrets misappropriated. That is not, however, its sole purpose. One of the DTSA’s more controversial provisions actually protects certain alleged misappropriators by precluding DTSA liability when an individual discloses trade secrets in the context of “whistleblowing” activity. Indeed, the DTSA’s immunity provision dictates that a whistleblower may not be held criminally or civilly liable for disclosing a trade secret, provided that the disclosure satisfies certain requirements. 18 U.S.C. § 1833. This immunity provision creates serious risk for companies: A whistleblower could expose a company to civil and criminal penalties stemming from the company’s alleged misconduct and simultaneously reveal valuable trade secrets, and the company would have no recourse. Fortunately, the immunity provision itself and the applicable case law, which is still in its infancy, can be used to develop a strategy for trade secret holders to avoid and/or mitigate this risk.

Trade Secrets Review: Key 2019 Decisions and Trends (Part I)

In general, a trade secret is any information used in business if the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret, and the information derives independent economic value, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by the public. Almost every state has adopted some form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. In addition, with the enactment of the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA), trade secrets are also protected under civil and criminal federal law. See 18 U.S.C. § 1831, et seq. Due to the enactment of this Act and the weakening of patent protection in the United States, trade secrets are becoming an increasingly important means for companies to protect their intellectual property. This article provides a summary of important 2019 trade secret decisions and trends.

Understanding Insurance Coverage for Intellectual Property Claims

Recent multi million-dollar jury verdicts on trade secret misappropriation claims reflect that there can be significant risk to companies when employees leave or joint development relationships dissolve. Coupled with the passage of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, which created a federal civil cause of action for such claims, these verdicts have heightened the need to refine intellectual property protection strategies. But even with greater attention paid to improving protection measures, litigation can be inevitable, and such cases, as demonstrated by a recent survey conducted by the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), can be expensive. Companies should consider whether insurance coverage is available to cover litigation costs. In this article we examine a sampling of cases where coverage questions were raised in connection with intellectual property disputes and the differing outcomes which ensued.

Take Steps to Deter the Spy in Your Business

Tesla recently filed two lawsuits for theft of trade secrets. In March, the auto maker sued several former employees and the two companies they joined, Zoox and Chinese EV automaker Xiaopeng. The trade secrets involved their driverless vehicle technology. Haliburton just sued a former employee for stealing information, getting a patent on it, and then trying to sell it back to Haliburton. Phillips is suing a former employee for stealing secrets that will give competitors a “decades long head start.” Waymo, Google’s self-driving car program, settled with Uber for theft of trade secrets. The settlement was reported by CNN Business to be a portion of Uber’s equity, estimated at $245 million. In In August, the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Northern District of California charged former Google employee Anthony Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google under 18 U.S.C. § 1832 of the Economic Espionage Act (EEA). These cases, and many more like them, involve employees leaving and taking trade secrets with them. Employees come and go, but they shouldn’t take your valuable secrets. You can stop them if you have systems in place, but you have only yourself to blame if you don’t.

Some Progress in the International Effort to Harmonize Trade Secret Protection

In 1994, the United States was winding up the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations leading to the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Tucked in among the toothbrush and rice tariffs was the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property. The TRIPS Agreement was seen as a breakthrough, setting common standards for protecting IP, including provisions on trade secrets that closely aligned with U.S. law. Twenty years later, I visited a friend at the WTO to find out what had actually been happening as a result of TRIPS. I was especially interested in what countries had done since 1994 to bring their national laws into harmony with the trade secret requirements. Because each member of the WTO was supposed to submit reports on its compliance, I asked about them. Yes, we have them, my friend told me. They were in boxes in the next room. But no one had ever read them. Just months before my visit, the European Commission had received an industry report lamenting the legal chaos facing companies that tried to enforce their trade secret rights in Europe. Although every one of the 27 member states of the EU was also a signatory to the TRIPS agreement, virtually none of them was in compliance. In response, the Commission issued a “Directive,” instructing all member states to (finally) harmonize some basic aspects of their trade secret laws.

Why it May Be Time to Provide Criminal Remedies for Patent Infringement

Under normal circumstances, infringement and misappropriation of the intellectual property (IP) rights of others are subject to civil liability under U.S. federal (and some states’) law; the remedies for those whose rights have been violated typically include money damages or some form of equitable relief, such as an injunction. However, sometimes the conduct of offenders is so egregious and the remedies so inadequate that pursuit of a private cause of action is insufficient to make IP owners whole. To make matters worse, civil remedies do little to deter further infringement or misappropriation on the part of individuals and entities with more than enough money to game the system. Known as efficient infringers, according to some IP practitioners, they have mastered the business practice of paying out as little in damages as possible and refusing to negotiate licenses with IP owners, all the while bullying IP owners into spending their much smaller fortunes in order to defend their IP rights or to forfeit them—the end result sometimes being the invalidation or cancellation of their IP. Accordingly, lawmakers have enacted legislation with the goal of creating true deterrents against infringement and misappropriation by imposing criminal sanctions on a narrow set of conditions associated with infringement and misappropriation. However, the law does not criminally punish infringement of a particular type of IP: patents.