• IP BLAWG

    Trade Secret Food Fight

    Beverly A. Berneman
    2/9/21

    In Brief:  Always investigate when a new hire says they own proprietary information.

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  • IP BLAWG

    The 2020 Crippys – The IP Criminals Hall of Fame

    Beverly A. Berneman
    1/5/21

    In past years, we have awarded Crippys to those who achieved infamy by committing Intellectual Property crimes over the last year. Here are the winners of the 2020 Crippys.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Zoom Smashes Trade Secrets

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/17/20

    Discussing confidential or trade secret information through video conferencing platforms can be hazardous to the health of trade secrets. 

    Smash Franchise Partners, LLC and Smash My Trash LLC operate a mobile trash compaction business. Smash’s trucks compact trash in the customer’s dumpster. This allows the customer to fill the dumpster with more trash and save on waste management fees. Smash sells franchises to entrepreneurs who want to run Smash branded franchises.

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  • IP BLAWG

    The Devil is in the Contract Details

    Beverly A. Berneman
    9/1/20

    Next time you look at a bottle of Listerine, think of it as a lesson in contract drafting.

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  • IP BLAWG

    An Exit Strategy Doesn’t Include Taking Trade Secrets

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/22/19

    Trade secrets have 3 major elements. First, they have to be not generally known or readily ascertainable. Second, the owner of the trade secrets gets economic value from them because they’re not generally known. Third, they have to be the subject of reasonable measures of protection from disclosure.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Loose Lips Sink Trade Secret Defense

    Beverly A. Berneman
    8/20/19

    Acacia Communications got tired of paying a license fee to Viasat, Inc. for trade secret protected technology. So Acacia supposedly created replacement technology. The problem? Acacia used Viasat’s trade secrets.

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  • IP BLAWG

    If You See Something, Say Something Fast

    Beverly A. Berneman
    7/24/19

    CMI knew (or should have known) that Iowa Parts was manufacturing competing replacement parts. Iowa Parts made no secret of it (pun intended). Then in 2016, Iowa Parts lowered its prices and cut deep into CMI’s revenues. That’s when CMI sued for misappropriation of trade secrets under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”).

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  • IP BLAWG

    Trade Secret Judgment Crashes in Bankruptcy Court

    Beverly A. Berneman
    7/9/19

    TKC thought it had a slam dunk. It had two judgments for trade secret misappropriation. But, bankruptcy is a whole new world. Bankruptcy is designed to give a debtor a fresh start. So non-dischargeability of a debt is strictly construed. TKC’s result can be avoided. A plaintiff can lay the groundwork for non-dischargeability if the defendant happens to file bankruptcy.

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  • IP BLAWG

    The Model T of Anti-Reverse Engineering Clauses

    Beverly A. Berneman
    6/4/19

    The Versata anti-reverse engineering language may have been fine at the beginning of the license agreement. But over time, the underlying technology changed and the language did not.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Public Information Can Transform into a Trade Secret

    Beverly A. Berneman
    2/26/19

    Public information can’t be a trade secret because it’s, well, public. But a combination of public information arranged or organized in a unique, economically advantageous way, can be a trade secret. That’s what Diego DeAmezaga learned to his chagrin. Diego worked for AirFacts, Inc. a software company that licenses auditing software for air fare comparisons. Diego worked painstakingly and expertly to create flow charts that AirFacts used in its software development. When Diego left AirFacts, he attached the flow charts to his resume. AirFacts brought suit against Diego for trade secret misappropriation under the Maryland Uniform Trade Secrets Act (MUTSA). The Maryland District Court dismissed the complaint. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal. The Court held that the flow charts had independent economic value separate from the public information they contained. AirFacts had taken reasonable measures to keep the flow charts secret by requiring employees to sign confidentiality agreements and giving only a few employees access to certain accounts. So the public information in the flow charts were trade secrets.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Leaky Trade Secrets

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/27/18

    A trade secret isn’t really a secret without proper measures of protection. %CUT% Kevin Barker, a vice president of Yellowfin Yachts, left the company to start a competing company, Barker Boatworks. Yellowfin sued Kevin and his new company for trade dress infringement and for trade secret misappropriation. Yellowfin alleged that Kevin downloaded hundreds of files with customer specifications, and drawings. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in Kevin and Barker’s favor. First, the court disposed of Yellowfin’s trade dress claims because it couldn’t prove any customer confusion between its designs and Barker’s designs. In addressing the trade secret misappropriation claim, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the customer information wasn’t a trade secret because boat owners have to register with the State of Florida. Then the court focused on Yellowfin’s measures of secrecy and found them wanting. While the information was password protected and only certain employees had access, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that “Yellowfin effectively abandoned all oversight in the security” of the information at issue because Yellowfin: (1) encouraged Kevin to store the information on his personal devices and didn’t ask him to delete the information when he left the company; (2) didn’t ask Kevin to use security measures for the information on his personal devices; (3) allowed Kevin access to the information even though he refused to sign a confidentiality agreement; and (4) none of the information was marked ‘confidential’.

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  • IP BLAWG

    A Better Way to Make and Bake a Data Center

    Beverly A. Berneman
    6/19/18

    A better way to build a data center can be protected as a trade secret. %CUT% BladeRoom developed a technique that allowed it to build data centers. BladeRoom’s system used prefabricated subassemblies that continued systems for air management, fire detection, security and lighting. Under a non-disclosure agreement, BladeRoom disclosed the system to Emerson Electric Co. and Facebook who were about to build a huge data center in Sweden. Emerson and Facebook took a pass on retaining BladeRoom. According to BladeRoom, Emerson and Facebook went ahead and built the data facility using BladeRoom’s system. BladeRoom sued for trade secret misappropriation. Facebook settled but Emerson went to trial and lost. Determining the misappropriation was a substantial factor in causing financial harm to BladeRoom, the jury awarded BladeRoom $10 million in lost profits and $20 million due to Emerson’s “unjust enrichment.” Emerson vows to appeal the verdict.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Divorce, Trade Secret Style

    Beverly A. Berneman
    2/20/18

    Trade secrets can be an asset in a divorce. %CUT% Donald Bailey and his ex-wife, Geraldine Bailey, were in the midst of a very messy divorce. As part of the proceedings, Geraldine wanted to determine the value of their marital assets. So Geraldine’s law firm sought discovery against Donald’s two companies, Zegato Solutions Inc. and Aldmyr Systems, Inc. The two companies had trade secrets that were worth about $350 million, according to Donald. Donald then brought a suit against the attorneys claiming that they stole and copied the trade secrets. Dismissal of the suit was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the lower court that the law firm was entitled to explore Donald’s assets on behalf of Geraldine.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Yummy Bread – But It’s a Secret

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/14/17

    Trade secrets are a good way to protect a recipe. %CUT% Sycamore Family Bakery Inc. sold its assets to Bimbo Bakeries USA. Included in the assets was Sycamore’s secret recipe for Grandma Sycamore’s Home-Maid Bread. When Leland Sycamore went to work for US Bakery, US Bakery started selling bread made from the same recipe. US Bakery also mimicked Bimbo’s packaging. Bimbo sued for trade secret misappropriation and false advertising. A jury awarded Bimbo $2 million.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Going Nuclear

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/17/17

    The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 can go nuclear to stop misappropriation. %CUT% The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”), which created a federal cause of action for misappropriation, has one amazing feature that’s new to trade secret litigation. It allows the court to order seizure of stolen trade secrets in “extraordinary circumstances” without advance notice. This has been called the “nuclear option”. Because it’s a draconian remedy, courts have been reluctant to enter seizure orders. The recent case of Mission Capital Advisors LLC v. Romaka, gives a clue for determining extraordinary circumstances. According to court documents, Romaka had downloaded Mission Capital’s entire 65,000 person client list while he was receiving employment offers from Mission Capital’s competitors. In granting an order for seizure, the court cited Romaka’s activities such as downloading the files while he was absent from work for several weeks; he said that he deleted the files, when he hadn’t; and he had downloaded other proprietary information and stored it on his computer. Although Romaka was cooperative originally, he didn’t respond to Mission Capital’s attempts to contact him. The court ordered U.S. Marshalls to go to his home, make a forensic copy of his computer and then permanently delete the files.

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  • IP BLAWG

    No Delete Button For Your Brain

    Beverly A. Berneman
    9/12/17

    An employee can’t unlearn information that belongs to a former employer. %CUT% The “Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine” is a term of art in trade secret law. The Doctrine applies to bar a former employee with knowledge of the employer’s trade secrets and confidential information from accepting a similar role with the employer’s competitor. In Utilisave, LLC v. Miele, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of a preliminary injunction under the Doctrine. The preliminary injunction was based on the substantial overlap between the former employee’s old job and his new one which was basically the same role, in the same industry, for the same geographic territory. With this kind of overlap, the court felt the former employee was likely to use confidential information and trade secrets to the detriment of his former employer. The preliminary injunction was warranted even though there wasn’t actual misappropriation of any particular trade secret or confidential information.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Subscriber in Disguise

    Beverly A. Berneman
    7/25/17

    The unauthorized use of someone else’s subscription password can result in multi-million dollar liability. %CUT% eVestment Alliance LLC offers a subscription to its trade secret protected database of investment products and performance data. An eVestment subscriber hired Compass iTech LLC to help analyze the eVestment’s data. Compass then used the subscriber’s password about 3,000 times to download information from eVestment’s database for its own benefit. eVestment discovered the activity and shut off access to the database. Compass sued for defamation and unfair trade practices. eVestment counterclaimed. eVestment was granted summary judgment on all of Compass’ claims. On eVestment’s counterclaim, a jury found that Compass deliberately misappropriated eVestment’s trade secrets and violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The jury awarded eVestment $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Over-Release Leads to Over-Regret

    Beverly A. Berneman
    7/11/17

    The good news is that the parties settled their trade secret litigation. The bad news is the release language in the settlement agreement. %CUT% Security Camera Warehouse, Inc. sued Bowman, one of its former owners, for trade secret misappropriation. During the settlement negotiations, unbeknownst to Security Camera, Bowman still had access to Security Camera’s servers and downloaded Security Camera’s trade secrets. After the parties signed a settlement agreement, Bowman set up a new company and competed with Security Camera using the information he took during settlement negotiations. Security Camera brought a second suit against Bowman for trade secret misappropriation. The court held that Security Camera’s claims were barred by the release in the settlement agreement from the first case. The language specifically released Bowman from any claims that Security Camera may have in the future based on events that occurred before the execution of the settlement agreement.

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  • IP BLAWG

    A Sword and a Shield for Your Trade Secrets

    Beverly A. Berneman
    5/17/16

    President Obama signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) into law on May 11, 2016. It was a long time coming but we’re glad it’s here. %CUT%

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