Business-to-business contracts often concern trade secrets. Contracts such as NDAs, joint development agreements, license agreements, vendor agreements, and other commercial agreements commonly contain restrictive covenants relating to the protection of trade secrets or other protectible interests. But when do these terms constitute an illicit restraint of trade under California law? The California Supreme Court just addressed this very question in Ixchel Pharma v. Biogen , holding that most B2B agreements are governed by the common law rule of reason, instead of the flat prohibition on noncompetes applicable to the employment context.
Continue Reading Ixchel v. Biogen: California B2B Noncompetes Do Not Per Se Violate B&P Section 16600, and Are Instead Subject to Rule of Reason

As previously noted in this forum: “[p]reservation of electronically stored evidence (ESI) may be critical in trade secret cases.”  See 3 Steps in Furtherance of Avoiding Devastating Spoliation Sanctions in Trade Secrets Misappropriation Litigation.  This is true for both plaintiffs and defendants, as the fate of modern trade secrets claims regularly turns on the existence or absence of a digital trail left by the accused appropriator.  Given the often transitory nature of this evidence, potential litigants must carefully and proactively preserve it in order to mount an effective case or defense.  This is especially true for early-stage entities with limited resources, as the “consequences for spoliation of electronically stored information may be severe” – including case terminating sanctions that may be devastating to such an entity’s continued operation.  See id.
Continue Reading Self-Driving Cars and Auto-Deletes: An Epic E-Discovery Mismatch

Given the prevalence of trade secret misappropriation litigation among members of the fashion, beauty, and retail industry, those in that industry should (1) take care to protect their trade secrets from misuse by others and (2) consider steps to try to reduce the risk of misappropriation claims against them by others.  Both situations – loss of a valuable trade secret and burdensome litigation – can be devastating to a business.  We offer here some potential measures that businesses can take to attempt to avoid such undesirable situations.
Continue Reading Members Of The Fashion and Retail Industry: Trade Secret Claims Are In Vogue These Days

While traditionally healthcare businesses have tended to look to patent protection, it would behoove them to also think about trade secret protection to protect their valuable inventions.  Given the financial strains on businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic, some businesses may find trade secret protection a cost-efficient alternative to the patent process. Trade secret enforcement also potentially can yield hundreds of millions, sometimes even over a billion, dollars for the trade secret holder.[1] Further, patent protection is not always available.[2]
Continue Reading Admonition To Members Of The Healthcare Industry: Don’t Give Trade Secret Protection The Short Shrift!

Non-compete, proprietary information, and confidentiality agreements often contain forum selection provisions, which specify where any related litigation must be brought.  But what is to happen when the underlying agreements contain different forum selection provisions?  A United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana recently addressed this very issue, and held that in such cases, a court must decide for itself which proposed forum has the greater connection to the underlying dispute by focusing on just the facts.  See High Tech Nat’l, LLC v. Wiener, No. 119-CV-02489-SEB-MJD (S.D. Ind. Nov. 26, 2019).
Continue Reading Trade Secrets and Conflicting Forum Selection Provisions – Focus on the Facts!

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently affirmed a District Court opinion awarding punitive damages against a former employee who stole confidential information from his former employer, even though the employer did not “own” the stolen information.  Advanced Fluid Sys., Inc. v. Huber, 958 F.3d 168 (3rd Cir. 2020).  This is a first of its kind decision in the federal circuit courts.  The Third Circuit held that the non-owner employer still had the right to bring trade secret claims because it had possessed and taken appropriate safeguards to keep that information secret from its competitors and the public prior to the theft.  The Court of Appeals further determined that the employer could recover damages, including punitive damages, against the former employee who stole that information for the benefit of a competitor.  The case is further detailed below.
Continue Reading Federal Court of Appeals Rules That Ownership of Trade Secret Not Necessary to Recover Punitive Damages for Its Theft

A brazen and sophisticated computer intrusion into the records of over 145 million Americans launched from computer hackers based in China led to recent criminal prosecutions under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. [1] Courts are willing to extend American law beyond U.S. boundaries often when criminal misconduct takes place overseas that injures Americans. The Constitution grants Congress broad powers to enact laws with extraterritorial scope.[2] The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (“CFAA”),  is one such statute that provides criminal and civil remedies resulting from unauthorized access to computers used in interstate commerce or communications.[3]  And, it further provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction for criminal or civil violations of the CFAA. Increasingly, U.S.-based companies have become victims of significant computer misconduct launched from overseas.[4]  And, with the increased widespread use of social media platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic, computer mischief in an effort to gain confidential business information is on the rise.[5]

Continue Reading Extraterritorial Application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Non-U.S. companies should not assume they are immune from civil claims under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) simply because they are not U.S. companies.  Since the enactment of the DTSA four years ago, the statute’s extraterritorial application has not been a heavily-litigated issue; however, a recent series of federal decisions indicate that civil litigants may apply the DTSA to foreign defendants so long as some act in furtherance of the misappropriation occurred in the United States, even if the foreign defendants’ acts took place outside the United States.
Continue Reading Non-U.S. Companies and the DTSA: Parameters of a Developing Reality

Reprinted with permission from the May 21, 2020 issue of The Recorder. © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.  All rights reserved.

Video conferencing has been available for years but given its new popularity in these COVID-19 times,[1] it behooves businesses to take care to protect their trade secrets during video conferencing.  Here, we address some potential risks to trade secrets from video conferencing –including hidden ones – and offer some potential measures to limit them.
Continue Reading Who’s Watching? Hidden Dangers To Trade Secrets From Video Conferencing

In a vacuum, the mere notion of giving a rival company access to your business’s confidential and proprietary materials would be unthinkable.  After all, this is the “secret sauce” that has helped expand your company, drive market share, and generate immense value.  If a competitor gained access to your trade secrets, the very foundations of your success could be in peril.
Continue Reading Protecting Trade Secrets During An Acquisition: Showing Off The Goods Without Giving Away The Store