This post provides a summary of noncompete and trade secret issues and cases that have arisen in the past month or so, but that I have not already addressed in recent posts. In addition to my summary, you will find links for more in-depth reading on each issue. (There’s a lot here, enjoy.)
UPDATED November 24; updates in bold.
UPDATED November 27; updates in bold/italic.
Trade Secret Cases and Issues in the News:
- In an extremely significant decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the International Trade Commission blocking importation of products from China that were developed using trade secrets that were misappropriated overseas: Tianrui Group Co. v. International Trade Commission. (For a primer on China’s trade secret law, see here; for a brief summary of the focus on misappropriation of trade secrets to China, see here.)
- The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision relating to the intersection between trade secret law and patent law: Atlantic Research Marketing Systems, Inc. v. Troy. A similar issue arose in Texas, with the court reducing from $68 million to $18 million the exemplary damages portion (separate from the $26 million compensatory damages portion) of a trade secret verdict in favor of Wellogix against Accenture. Story here. (For a brief summary of the intersection of patents and trade secrets, see here.)
- The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act became was passed on September 16, 2011, and, as part of a sweeping overhaul to US patent law, will expand trade secret defenses to patent infringement actions.
- Seagate won a $525,000 trade secret award in an arbitration against Western Digital, which Seagate accused of misappropriating trade secrets through a former Seagate employee. Story here.
- Motorola Mobility was sued by Lemko for alleged misappropriation of trade secrets relating to the location of emergency callers on a cellular network. Story here and here. The case is related to the federal criminal charges brought against the employee, who was headed to China. Story here. (Note the China connection, and see below.)
- A blogger accused of trade secret misappropriation can keep his or her identity secret. Story here.
- Groupon sued employees who left for Google and who allegedly took Groupon’s trade secrets with them. Story here.
- For an excellent summary on the implications of backing up your trade secrets in the cloud, see Protecting Trade Secrets in the “Cloud” and Cloud Computing – New Buzz Word, Old Legal Issues. (For more, see Social Media is Not Social “Security”.)
- The Uniform Trade Secrets Act has been adopted in some form or another in all states but Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. Of these states, New Jersey is closest to adopting the UTSA. See New Jersey Poised to Adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The UTSA does leave open questions about the scope of other common law claims that are still permitted. For some discussion on that issue, see here.
Noncompete Cases and Issues in the News:
- Further confirmation of my research (and personal experience) revealing an uptick in noncompete and trade secret litigation. See Brighter economy means noncompete, nonsolicitation litigation increasing.
- Two recent noncompete decisions from the 1st Circuit suggest the need for revisions to certain provisions in existing Massachusetts noncompete agreements and similar restrictive covenants.
- Virginia noncompete law is “incrementally clarified.” Noncompetes may need to be updated. The case is Home Paramount Pest Control Cos. v. Shaffer.
- Georgia’s first reported decision to apply Georgia’s new blue pencil rule: PointeNorth Insurance Group v. Zander. Nice discussion of the case here.
- The Eastern District of Pennsylvania finds that the automatic stay in bankruptcy does not apply to injunctive enforcement of a noncompete: In re Stone Resources.
- A Texas appeals court says that the court cannot reform a noncompete to eliminate the damages remedy otherwise available through arbitration: Gray Wireline Service, Inc. v. Cavanna.
- Arizona federal court refuses to give effect to choice of law provision in a noncompete: Pathway Medical Technologies, Inc. v. Nelson. In contrast, a recent North Carolina case (Akzo Nobel Coatings Inc. v. Rogers) did precisely the opposite. For a nice summary of the issues (under Delaware law) in the case – which are common issues in these types of cases – see A Covenant Not To Compete Cornucopia From The Business Court.
- H-P loses race to courthouse (Texas vs. California) and Cisco’s GC speaks out (loudly) about H-P’s efforts to enforce its noncompetes. Story here.
- Illinois federal court analyzes how much consideration is sufficient for a noncompete: LKQ Corp. v. Thrasher.
- Big things are brewing: Boston Beer (Sam Adams beer maker) sued Anchor Brewing (Anchor Steam beer maker). Story here and Boston.com editors’ reaction here.
- No implied noncompete in the sale of a business in Alabama: Pinzone v. Papa’s Wings, Inc. For a nice summary see Legal Developments in Non-Competition Agreements.
- For some interesting reading on the policy of noncompetes, see The Law and Policy of Non-Compete Clauses in the United States and Their Implications by Jay Kesan and Carol Hayes; and Noncompetes and Intentor Mobility: Specialists, Starts, and the Michigan Experiment by Matt Marx, Deborah Strumsky, and Lee Fleming.