Articles Tagged with Defend Trade Secrets Act

  • A court may immecdiately grant the plaintiff a restraining order or preliminary injunction when there is a valid trade secret claim and the plaintiff may suffer irreparable harm without it.

  • Courts make the determination whether an injunction is necessary based on the evidence presented by the plaintiff at an initial application at the start of the case.

In a misappropriation of trade secrets lawsuit, one of the first actions taken by the court is to determine if an injunction will be available to protect the trade secret from use or disclosure pending a final resolution of the case.

Whether an injunction will be granted at the outset of the case pendente lite, or while the lawsuit is pending, is a critical must-win for both plaintiff and defendant. It will not only color the way the matter is handled, but in many cases reflects the ultimate outcome of the case.

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  • Statutes that protect the rights of the owners of trade secrets protect against ‘misappropriation’ of confidential information, which requires a defendant to take or use the trade secret without permission.

  • The inevitable disclosure doctrine can prevent an employee from working for another when the new job would inevitably require the use of the trade secrets of the former employ.  Intent to misappropriate the information is not an element.

  • A party seeking to prevent disclosure of a trade secret under the inevitable disclosure doctrine will probably not be able to pursue the remedies available under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act or the state Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

When a key executive with access to key data leaves an information-intensive position to start a competing business, does the fact that inevitably the former employee will make use of sensitive state a claim under federal law? Quite possibly not.

The federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA ) and the uniform state law on which it is modelled turns on the concept of misappropriation and without it, there may be no basis.  Inevitable disclosure is a common-law doctrine and in itself may not create a right to sue under the these trade secret statutes.Trade Secret Attorneys | New Jersey | New York

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The inevitable disclosure doctrine is legal principle in trade secret law that enables a former employer to prevent a former employee from accepting a new position with a rival if the new position’s responsibilities will unavoidably cause the person to divulge the trade secrets of the former employer. The doctrine may apply even if fthe former employer lacks concrete evidence that the employee has actually taken trade secrets or threatened to do so.

The Difference Between the DTSA and the Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine

In a federal court action, Paro Inc., a Delaware corporation, unsuccessfully sought an emergency temporary restraining order against former employee Luke Kohan, a New York resident, and his newly founded company, FirmKey Solutions LLC, claiming Kohan was in breach of a restrictive covenant and had misappropriated trade secrets. Paro, an artificial intelligence-powered marketplace, provides various finance and accounting solutions to businesses through its AI-powered platform. Continue reading

  • The touchstone of a trade secret is that it provides the owner of the information with a competitive advantage in their market.

  • Courts look at the cost of development, the difficulty in duplicating  and measurable benefits to ascertain whether a bona fide trade secret exists.

  • The first step in the defense of a trade secret is to examine whether there is real economic value to keeping the information secret.

Trade secret laws, much like other types of intellectual property law, always have the potential to limit competition and restrict employee mobility.  The result is that trade secret law can be used as a means to try to carve out a market space.  Those cases, however, may involve benign information that is difficult to classify as a trade secret.

The first issue in the defense of any claim for misappropriation of a trade secret is to figure out if there is really a trade secret at issue, whether the claim is brought under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), a state Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) (from which the DTSA was derived) or state common law.

The UTSA has now been enacted every state except New York and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Continue reading

  • Although a former executive was bound by a restrictive covenant, the fact that his duties after joining a competitor were directed to a different market made the scope of the restrictions unreasonable.

  • A restrictive covenant that is not narrowly tailored to protecting specific interests of the former employer at stake in a lawsuit is less likely to be enforced with a preliminary injunction. 

  • A company that relies on the inevitable disclosure doctrine faces a high hurdle to show the certain use of a trade secret in a competitive manner.

An attempt by United Health Care to block an executive from joining a competitor failed when a federal judge found the medical insurance and services company had failed to establish it was likely to succeed when the case goes to trial.  The dispute identifies some of the steps that a new employer take to prevent its just-hired employee from running afoul of a restrictive covenant.united-Logo

The defendant Carlos Louro in this this case, United Health Care v. Louro, was an executive supervising the underwriting of national accounts at United.  He had recently been promoted to vice president and served on a high-level, national accounts strategy group.  He had also received stock options and restricted stock awards, which contained restrictive covenants and non-disclosure provisions..

Anthem-logoThe trial court construed Louros agreements with United that and restricted him from:“[e]ngag[ing] in or participat[ing] in any activity that competes, directly or indirectly, with any Company activity, product, or service that [Louro] engaged in, participated in, or had Confidential Information about during [Louro’s] last 36 months of employment with the Company” or assist anyone in any of those activities for one year after Louro’s termination of employment.” Continue reading

  • An executive with national responsibilities may be subjected to a broad geographic restriction in an employment restrictive covenant.

  • Courts can and will enjoin a former executive from working for a competitor to prevent irreparable harm to the executive’s former employer when the restriction is reasonable.

  • Misappropriation and use of a company’s trade secrets by a former employee may also prevent an employee who has copied information from working for a competitor

A federal district court judge in New Jersey imposed a preliminary injunction that will prohibit a former executive from working for a competitor for at least a year.  The decision was based on both the existence of a restrictive covenant and the departing executive’s having copied data from his prior employer at the time of his departure.sunbelt

Resignation by Executive to Work for Competitor

The case,  Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. v. Love (opinion here) is particularly notable as a lesson in how not to resign a high-level position.  Because even if the trial judge had not enforced the restrictive covenant in the executive’s employment contract, the fact that he copied proprietary information by emailing customer lists and other data to his brother before his resignation doomed any defense to the preliminary injunction. Continue reading

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