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Posts Tagged: "trade secret misappropriation"

Carefully Connecting the Dots: Consider All the Evidence Before Launching a Trade Secret Misappropriation Attack

The job of the trial lawyer starts with figuring out what happened and collecting evidence to use in telling a compelling story to a judge or jury. Direct evidence takes you immediately to the fact you’re trying to prove and is most commonly seen in eyewitness testimony. Betty saw John shoot the gun at Phil, who collapsed on the floor. That’s direct evidence that John murdered Phil. But if Betty had been outside the bar, heard an argument and then a gunshot before entering and seeing John holding a smoking gun, that’s indirect, or circumstantial, evidence of the murder…. In the realm of trade secret disputes, there are special challenges in trying to sort out the truth because one side knows the facts and the other doesn’t.

CAFC Clears L’Oréal of Trade Secret Misappropriation, Orders New Trial on Patent Infringement

On May 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), reversed in part, affirmed in part, vacated in part, dismissed in part, and remanded a judgment in an appeal from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. L’Oréal USA, Inc., L’Oréal USA Products, Inc., L’Oréal USA S/D, Inc., and Redken 5th Avenue NYC, LLC. (collectively, “L’Oréal”) appealed the district court’s ruling in favor of plaintiffs Liqwd, Inc. and Olaplex, LLC, which sued L’Oréal for patent infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of a non-disclosure agreement. 

A Massive Threat to Innovation Dodged—for Now

When people think of innovation at this moment, odds are they are thinking about innovation in the biotech and pharmaceutical sector, as the industry scrambles to invent a dependable vaccine for COVID-19, more reliable tests and other treatments. The immediate need for such innovation is real, but the U.S. economy has a constant, ongoing need for innovation across all industry sectors because we are no longer the cheapest place to make things or to grow things. We are the place that invents and innovates things. As such, our economy depends on a robust innovation ecosystem. That means we must maintain a system of abundant risk-capital, affordable and accessible quality educational options, a culture of risk-taking, and a strong intellectual property system so that if an invention succeeds, those who took the risks have a chance to reap the rewards.

Eighth Circuit Affirms Holding That Disclosure of Source Code Was Authorized Under the Parties’ Agreement

On August 14, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part a district court decision in MPAY Inc. v. Erie Custom Computer Applications, Inc, et. al. In particular, the Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that MPAY had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its copyright infringement or trade secret misappropriation claims. The Circuit court also affirmed the district court’s decision to deny preliminary injunctive relief for MPAY’s source-code claim, but vacated in part the district court’s Order and Judgment denying that relief and remanded for the district court to consider whether a preliminary injunction against Erie Custom Computer Applications and Payroll World is appropriate.

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.

CAFC Says Removal Improper, Trade Secret Case Didn’t Necessarily Raise Patent Law Issues

In a precedential opinion, Intellisoft v. Acer, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), in a decision authored by Judge Dyk, held that the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (the district court) erred in refusing to remand a case where removal was improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and §1454… Despite Acer’s contentions, the CAFC found that Intellisoft’s trade secret misappropriation claim did not “necessarily” raise patent law issues that would result in district court original jurisdiction. The CAFC first noted that ownership of a trade secret under state law does not require proof of patent ownership.

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.

The Curious Case of the Trade Secrets that Weren’t

The normally staid world of intellectual property law was buzzing last year about one of the biggest trade secret cases and largest punitive damages awards in American history. The case involves automated valuation models (AVMs), which are computer models typically generated by machine learning—a form of artificial intelligence—and used to estimate property values by analyzing the property’s attributes, comparable properties, and the like. Jaws dropped last March when a Texas jury awarded HouseCanary, a Silicon Valley company specializing in residential real estate data and analytics, more than $700 million in compensatory and punitive damages after accepting its claims that it possessed AVM-related trade secrets that were allegedly misappropriated by Amrock (formerly Title Source), one of the nation’s largest appraisal and title service companies. The jury’s verdict might lead you to believe that Amrock is guilty of one of the most blatant and outrageous intellectual property thefts in history. But when you look closer, it is the jury’s verdict that is outrageous and nearly impossible to justify. I say that not only as a lawyer, but also as someone who built AVMs much like those at issue here before attending law school.

Proprietary Techniques vs. Employee Rights: The struggle to balance competing interests

It’s football season, so of course we should be talking about beer. Specifically, beer secrets. For fourteen years James Clark had an enviable job at Anheuser-Busch, where he had access to the brewer’s confidential recipes. For unexplained reasons he resigned. Instead of joining a competitor, he went to see a lawyer about planning a class action against his former employer for “intentionally overstating the alcohol content” of the company’s “malt beverages.”… Anheuser-Busch sued him for misappropriation of its secrets for making beer.

Trade Secrets: Intellectual Property Considerations and Guidance for Start-Ups

Trade secret holders must take reasonable precautions to maintain the secrecy of their secrets, such as keeping such information on a “need-to-know” basis. Companies should have clear IP, confidentiality, and employment agreements describing which types of information are considered trade secrets. These agreements should also describe an employee’s responsibility for maintaining the secrecy of such information. In spite of reasonable precautions by a trade secret holder, bad actors may maliciously misappropriate trade secrets.

CAFC Affirms Invalidation of Water Recreation Device Patent Over Newman Dissent

In Zup v. Nash Manufacturing, ZUP filed suit, alleging contributory infringement and induced infringement of the patent-at-issue, trade secret misappropriation under Virginia law, and breach of contract.  Nash counterclaimed, seeking declaratory judgment as to non-infringement and invalidity… Prior art references aiming to overcome problems similar to those addressed by a patent can support a motivation to combine invalidating references, and for evidence of a long-felt but unresolved need to be considered, the need must be solved by an invention that is more than minimally different from the prior art… Judge Newman dissented, finding that the majority applied an incorrect analysis of the obviousness factors. In her view, the prior art provides no suggestion to make the specific modifications made by the patent-at-issue, and the only source of those modifications is judicial hindsight.

Trade Secrets: Contempt proceedings put miscreant in jail for failure to provide information about misappropriation

Generally, a breach of confidence under English law does not give rise to criminal liability (and the recently implemented Trade Secrets Directive only addresses civil remedies for misappropriation of trade secrets). Sometimes the conduct giving rise to the breach may constitute an offense in its own right (for example an offense under the Computer Misuse Act 1990) but in the absence of such a scenario sanctions will be limited to inter partes remedies. However, as recently seen, if an order for inter partes relief is breached, criminal sanctions may still be imposed following a finding of contempt of court.

Enabling Technologies and the Underinvestment Problem

Certain innovations—known as enabling technologies—provide the foundation for progress across a range of industries. Enabling technologies include mobile wireless, the laser, CT scanners, the microprocessor, artificial intelligence, and freight containerization. Such technologies drive wealth creation throughout the economy. However, the difficulties associated with monetizing this type of IP, which I explore in this article, mean that private enterprise tends to underinvest in new enabling technologies. Public policy needs to be more supportive, and firms need to be willing to support more blue-sky projects. As a nation, we are harvesting the fruits of old enabling technologies without investing sufficiently in new ones. We are eating our seed corn.

Jury Cannot Award Disgorgement of Profits in Trade Secret Misappropriation Cases

In Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions v. Renesas Electrics, a jury found Renesas liable for both patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation. The jury awarded a reasonable royalty for infringement and a disgorgement of profits for misappropriation. The Federal Circuit affirmed a jury finding that Renesas was liable for trade secret misappropriation and patent infringement for a set of apparatus claims, but vacated the damages awards in the case and remanded for further proceedings… There is no right for a jury to award a disgorgement of profits in trade secret misappropriation cases under the Seventh Amendment. Double recovery of damages for essentially same injury is not justified by presenting two legal theories for relief.