Global competition in high-tech industries is as intense as ever, and U.S. administrative agencies continue to find themselves at the center of global disputes between foreign companies seeking to vindicate trade secret and intellectual property rights.  That outlook was confirmed this month in a highly-anticipated ruling by the International Trade Commission (“ITC”) in a trade secret dispute between two South Korean manufacturers of electric vehicle batteries.
Continue Reading LG Chem’s Win In $1 Billion Electric Vehicle Trade Secret Dispute Upheld by International Trade Commission

Courts are increasingly scrutinizing agreements that extend beyond what is necessary to protect bona fide confidential information and trade secrets.  The recent decision in Hamilton v. Juul Labs, Inc., Case No. 3:20-cv-03710-EMC, illustrates this trend.  On January 27, 2021, a California federal judge ruled that an ex-employee’s lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs, Inc. regarding Juul’s allegedly over-restrictive non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) may move forward.  The case, filed by Juul’s former Director of Program Management, Marcie Hamilton, is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Edward M. Chen presiding.
Continue Reading A “Culture Of Concealment” – Scrutinizing Overbroad NDAs

In several recent decisions, district courts have held that liability under the Defend Trade Secrets Act can extend to extraterritorial defendants.  As set forth by Sheppard Mullin’s Tyler Baker in a prior blog post, the extraterritorial reach of the DTSA is rapidly expanding.  Non-U.S. Companies and the DTSA: Parameters of a Developing Reality | Trade Secrets Law Blog (citing vPersonalize Inc. v. Magnetize Consultants Ltd., 437 F. Supp. 3d 860, 878 (W.D. Wash. 2020); Micron Tech. Inc. v. United Microelectronics Corp., No. 17-cv-06932-MMC, 2019 WL 1959487 (N.D. Ca. May 2, 2019); Motorola Solutions Inc. v. Hytera Commc’ns Corp., 436 F.Supp.3d 1150, 1165 (N.D. Ill. 2020); ProV In’tl Inc. v. Lucca, No. 8:19-cv-978-T-23AAS, 2019 WL 5578880 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 29, 2019)).  As Mr. Baker observed, these rulings create a risk for foreign entities regarding trade secret theft, as federal courts have held that foreign actors may be subject to liability under the DTSA if the act in furtherance of the misappropriation occurred in the United States.
Continue Reading The DTSA as a Tool for Foreign Entities’ Enforcement of Trade Secrets: A New Legal Frontier

The recent case of Multimedia Sales & Marketing, Inc. v. Marzullo, et al., — N.E.3d —-, 2020 IL App (1st) 191790 (1st Dist. Dec. 21, 2020), demonstrates the peril that attorney fees sanctions present for litigants who bring trade secret misappropriation claims in bad faith.
Continue Reading Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Sanctions Against Radio Advertiser For Bad Faith Trade Secrets Claims

During the Obama Administration, American foreign policy made a strategic “pivot” to Asia with the goal of establishing a more balanced economic, diplomatic, and security-focused approach and relationship between the U.S. and the region that would serve as a bulwark against growing Chinese influence (see, e.g., the Trans-Pacific Partnership).

Continue Reading The China Pivot: Closing the “Back Door” to Trade Secret and IP Theft

Trade secrets and other proprietary information can be among a business’ most valuable assets and drive its competitive advantage.  It is therefore ordinarily critical that employees be bound by an enforceable agreement that prohibits them from misusing or otherwise harming the value of the employer’s confidential information.  The recent California Court of Appeal decision, Brown v. TGS Management Co., LLC (2020) 57 Cal.App.5th 303, should be of concern to employers because it holds that an employee confidentiality agreement may be voided as a de facto unlawful non-compete agreement if it has the effect of preventing the employee from working in the industry.   
Continue Reading California Court Strikes Down Overbroad Confidentiality Agreement as a de facto Non-Compete

The Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”), enacted in 2016, created a federal right of action for misappropriation of trade secrets. The Ninth Circuit recently addressed for the first time whether a DTSA claim may be brought against misconduct predating the enactment of the DTSA.  The Ninth Circuit held that it could, so long as the misappropriation continued until after the enactment of the DTSA.  See Attia v. Google LLC, — F.3d —, 2020 WL 7380256 (9th Cir. 2020).  
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Applies the “Continued Use” Doctrine to the Defend Trade Secrets Act

Employment agreements with restrictive covenants typically contain both a forum selection clause, which determines the forum where a dispute must be heard, and a choice of law clause, which determines the law that applies to the dispute. As lawyers who regularly litigate post-employment restrictive covenant cases well know, enforcement or restrictive covenants often turns on which court decides the dispute, and what law applies, which is why these provisions are so important.  Often, however, employers consider these provisions as mere drafting afterthoughts.  They shouldn’t be, given the outsized importance they can play in determining enforcement.  Moreover, at the dispute stage – whether seeking to enforce or resist a restrictive covenant – forum selection and choice of law provisions should inform, and often drive, litigation strategy.
Continue Reading Don’t Neglect Forum Selection and Choice of Law Provisions When Drafting or Litigating Restrictive Covenants

Courts often require a plaintiff to identify a trade secret with reasonable particularity before commencing discovery (and it is a statutory obligation in California).  But frequently a trade-secret plaintiff does not know precisely which trade secrets have been taken by the defendant before discovery commences.  In the recent Ninth Circuit decision InteliClear v. ETC Global Holdings (9th Cir. Oct. 15, 2020), the appellate court held that, under its particular circumstances, a plaintiff who had not adequately specified its trade secrets at issue should nevertheless be permitted to engage in discovery for this purpose, where the plaintiff had shown discovery could provide the necessary information.  (Disclaimer: Sheppard Mullin served as co-counsel to the successful appellant-plaintiff in this case.)
Continue Reading Trade Secret Takeaways from the Ninth Circuit’s Decision in InteliClear, LLC v. ETC Global Holdings, Inc.

On September 21, 2020, in a published 2-1 opinion in Doe v. Google Inc., the California Court of Appeal (Dist. 1, Div. 4), permitted three current and former Google employees to proceed with their challenge of Google’s confidentiality agreement as unlawfully overbroad and anti-competitive under the California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) (Lab. Code § 2698 et seq.).  In doing so, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order sustaining Google’s demurrer on the basis of preemption by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) (29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.) under San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 244–245 (1959).  The court held that while the plaintiffs’ claims relate to conduct arguably within the scope of the NLRA, they fall within the local interest exception to Garmon preemption and may therefore go forward.  It remains to be seen whether plaintiffs will be able to sustain their challenges to Google’s confidentiality policies on the merits.  However, Doe serves as a reminder to employers to carefully craft robust confidentiality agreements, particularly in the technology sector, in anticipation of potential challenges employees may make to those agreements.
Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Rules that Challenge to Google’s Confidentiality Agreements May Proceed Past the Pleading Stage

Grounded in California’s recognized hostility against restraints on competition, a recently published opinion from the California Court of Appeal, Hooked Media Grp., Inc. v. Apple Inc.[1], held that to establish trade secret misappropriation under California law,[2] it is not enough to show that the defendant has knowledge of the plaintiff’s trade secrets. Rather, in addition to proving that the subject information constitutes a trade secret,[3] the plaintiff must prove that the defendant improperly acquired or actually used the information. The ruling should be of interest to both former and new employers, as we explain below.
Continue Reading As A Reminder That California Has Rejected The Doctrine Of Inevitable Disclosure, Court of Appeal Rules Knowledge Of Former Employer’s Trade Secret Information Does Not By Itself Constitute Misappropriation