Litigators know it is generally not easy to recover attorneys’ fees in defense of a trade secret misappropriation action. The Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) permits a court to “award reasonable attorneys’  fees” to the defendant when a claim of misappropriation  is “made in bad faith,” which “may be established by circumstantial evidence.”[1] But what exactly does bad faith mean and what is the threshold?
Continue Reading A High Mountain to Climb: Filing DTSA Claims Without any Evidence is Not Enough to Meet “Bad Faith” Standard for Awarding Attorneys’ Fees to Opponent

A recent decision from the Eastern District of California illustrates the sometimes fine line between the need for plaintiffs to allege a claim for trade secret misappropriation in sufficient detail,
Continue Reading Dairy, LLC v. Milk Moovement, Inc.: Identifying Software Trade Secrets With Particularity to State a Claim for Trade Secret Misappropriation

On January 24, 2022, the Federal Circuit affirmed the grant of a preliminary injunction blocking the publication of a patent application on the basis that it contained the plaintiff, Masimo Corp.’s trade secrets. Masimo Corp. v. True Wearables, Inc., No. 2021-2146, 2022 WL 205485 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 24, 2022). The Court of Appeals did so despite evidence that a widely circulated and cited paper on statistics had disclosed an equivalent algorithm, because the defendant failed to show that others in Masimo’s particular field (or a related field) were aware of the paper.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Deems Algorithm Potentially Valid Trade Secret Notwithstanding Prior Publication

In a recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Florida, a healthcare product manufacturer’s claim of trade secret misappropriation against a competitor and a customer was thrown out on summary judgement.  While the plaintiff showed that at least some defendants had access to the plaintiff’s alleged trade secret protected CBD cream formula and manufacturing process, the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the defendants’ accused CBD cream product was manufactured using the alleged trade secret.  Healthcare Res. Mgmt. Grp., LLC v. Econatura All Healthy World, LLC, No. 9:20-cv-81501-Matthewman, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 206871 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 27, 2021).

Continue Reading Healthcare Res. Mgmt. Grp., LLC v. Econatura All Healthy World, LLC – A Cautionary Tale: Meticulous or Careless Strategy Required to Prove Your Trade Secret Claim

Trade secrets and patents offer very different forms of protection, with different pros and cons. A trade secret may last indefinitely, while a patent has a fixed term of 20 years. Independent reinvention is permissible under trade secrets, but not with patents. And of course to obtain a patent, one must disclose the claimed invention to the public, in sufficient detail to enable one skilled in the relevant technology to make and use the invention.

Continue Reading Trade Secret vs. Patent – a False Dichotomy

For most (if not all) professional services firms, client databases, client contact lists, and information reflecting client preferences are regarded by such firms as trade secrets that are essential to the business.  Invariably, businesses identify this type of information as proprietary and trade secret in their employee confidentiality agreements and handbooks and subject them to duties of confidentiality.  However, a recent federal ruling provides an important reminder that the term “trade secret” is a legal term of art subject to strict standards and merely labeling general categories of company information as trade secrets does not make them so—no matter how important the information is to the business.  To be prepared to protect their trade secrets from misappropriation, firms should take inventory of what they regard as their trade secrets and critically assess whether they actually qualify as such, and if not, whether steps can be taken to make them qualify.

Continue Reading Reminder to Professional Services Firms – Do Not Take Your Trade Secrets for Granted

In trade secrets litigation, it is often critical to expeditiously obtain protection from further disclosure or continued misappropriation of the trade secret at issue through a motion for preliminary injunction.  Courts are quick to point out, however, that preliminary injunctions are “an extraordinary and drastic remedy,” and are only to be granted if the movant, “by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion” as to each element of the preliminary injunction test.  Lopez v. Brewer, 680 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir. 2012) (observing that to obtain preliminary injunctive relief, a plaintiff must generally demonstrate that: “1) he is likely to succeed on the merits of such a claim; 2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; 3) the balance of equities tips in his favor; and 4) that an injunction is in the public interest.”).

Continue Reading Trade Secret Litigants Take Note: California District Court Provides Guidance on Obtaining a Preliminary Injunction and Expedited Discovery

You may be able to bring a misappropriation of trade secrets claim even if you do not actually own the misappropriated trade secret.  A growing number of federal cases indicate ownership of a trade secret may not be required in order for a plaintiff to sue for misappropriation; possession alone may be enough to confer standing.
Continue Reading Is Lawful Possession of a Trade Secret Enough for Standing to Sue for Misappropriation?

When filing a claim for trade secret misappropriation under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) or a state’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), it is essential to strike the proper balance between sufficiently describing an underlying trade secret and avoiding disclosure of any details that would destroy its secrecy.  A federal court decision issued earlier this month in the Northern District of California, MBS Engineering Inc., et al. v. Black Hemp Box, LLC, et al., No. 20-cv-02825-JD, 2021 WL 2458370 (N.D. Cal. June 16, 2021), highlights this “obvious tension between the right of public access to court proceedings and the ‘secret’ part of a trade secret” and provides a useful example of the factors used by courts to assess an appropriately alleged trade secret claim.
Continue Reading Striking the Balance Between Detailed Description and Unnecessary Disclosure of the “Secret” in Trade Secret Litigation Pleadings

Amidst long-simmering diplomatic tensions between China and the United States, disputes arising out of Chinese companies’ alleged theft of technological trade secrets from rival American companies[1] have found their way to federal courtrooms. This stems, in part, from the availability of worldwide injunctive relief under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”), which provides American companies with a robust tool to combat trade secret misappropriation by foreign entities in cases where “an act in furtherance of the offense was committed in the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 1837(2).
Continue Reading Illinois Court Finds China Inadequate Forum For Trade Secret Misappropriation Claims Against Chinese Tech Company