Articles Posted in Trade Secrets

Published on:

With the economy still unsteady after the recession, more and more people are attracted to the idea of starting their own business. But one of the biggest challenges when doing that is making sure you have something unique to offer the market.

For people who have spent most of their career working at one company, that’s often all they know. If they’re going to try to branch off on their own, they’d better make sure their new operation is significantly different from their employer’s, or at least has a new approach to the industry. Either way, it’s important to note that just copying and pasting your employer’s business is not only unethical – it’s illegal.

According to officials, David Newman, a 34-year-old trader who worked in Chicago, stole more than 400,000 electronic files from his employer. Those files contained all of WH Trading LLC’s proprietary computer code and trading software. Continue reading

Published on:

In Silicon Valley, the heart of the technology industry, a company’s greatest asset is its talent. Their brains and the information they have access to are priceless, which is why, for many tech companies, it is imperative for them not to allow their employees to take such invaluable information directly to a competitor. It’s also why Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, is suing Uber and one of Google’s former employees for allegedly stealing trade secrets.

According to Waymo, Anthony Levandowski, who was working on Google’s self-driving vehicle technology, left the company last year after allegedly stealing 14,000 documents containing trade secrets. Levandowski then started his own self-driving truck company, called Otto, which he sold to Uber earlier this year. Levandowski is now working as the head of Uber’s self-driving department, although Uber and Levandowski claim their technology bears no resemblance to Waymo’s self-driving technology. Continue reading

Published on:

There’s no doubt that self-driving cars will be the next big thing in the automobile industry, which is why Google got so upset when a former employee allegedly took trade secrets regarding their self-driving technology to a competitor.

Anthony Levandowski claims he has been working on technology for driverless automobiles since he was in college. He entered a self-driving motorcycle into the Pentagon’s first competition for driverless vehicles in 2004, when he was still a graduate student at the University of California in Berkeley.

In 2007, Levandowski started working for Google on their maps program. When Google gave the go-ahead to start experimenting with self-driving automobiles, Levandowski was one of the first people chosen for the team.

Levandowski left Google early in 2016 to start his own business, a driverless truck company named Otto. That company was bought by Uber, at which point Levandowski became the vice president in charge of Uber’s driverless vehicle project. Continue reading

Published on:

While there are many people who dream of becoming an internationally renowned singer/songwriter, the position does have its drawbacks. For starters, many of them don’t own the rights to their own songs for their most lucrative years, and even when the songs’ copyrights have ended, many songwriters still have trouble regaining rights to the music they created.

For example, Sir Paul McCartney, writer and cowriter of some of the most successful songs of all time (including “All You Need Is Love” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”) is currently suing Sony/ATV for allegedly refusing to give up the rights to his songs.

Under the Copyright Act of 1976, authors and creators are allowed to reclaim the rights to their art from publishers after a certain amount of time has passed. Since that amount of time has expired for many of the Beatles’ timeless songs, McCartney should be able to reclaim ownership of his songs, but Sony/ATV has decided to put up a fight. Continue reading

Published on:

Some companies will do anything to get their hands on valuable trade secrets from their competitors. According to Olaplex, a startup based in California, L’Oréal allegedly tried everything from poaching employees to allegedly offering to acquire the company in order to gain access to allegedly sensitive, privileged and secret information. What was at stake was a alleged secret formula designed to protect hair from damage during the dyeing process.

Starting around the middle of 2015, L’Oréal allegedly tried to hire Olaplex employees it thought were responsible for creating the revolutionary product. When that didn’t work, L’Oréal allegedly approached Olaplex about possibly acquiring the company.

As a direct result of talks between the two companies to negotiate the terms under which the French-based company might acquire the U.S.-based company, L’Oréal was allegedly given access to confidential and proprietary information that had not yet been made available to the public, including an unpublished application for a patent on a product designed to allow customers to dye their hair without causing damage. Continue reading

Published on:

Before now, if an organization had its trade secrets stolen, its only recourse was usually to bring an action against the perpetrator in state court under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which was adopted by most states to provide a uniform civil remedy for trade secret theft, or under state criminal laws. The only federal protection for trade secrets was criminal sanction under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. That changed this May, when President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which gives owners of trade secrets a new federal civil cause of action for misappropriation of their proprietary information. The law is intended to provide an alternative to the current patchwork of state laws governing the issue, but not replace them; unlike the federal Copyright Act, for instance, DTSA does not pre-empt state law.

DTSA allows a plaintiff to seek relief in federal court for misappropriation of trade secrets “by improper means” related to a product or service in interstate or foreign commerce. Improper means is defined as theft, robbery, misrepresentation, espionage, or breach of a duty to maintain secrecy. The law establishes civil remedies such as injunctions and damages for actual loss and unjust enrichment, or a “reasonable” royalty where an injunction is not feasible. If a trade secret is “willfully or maliciously” misappropriated, damages may be doubled. Trade secrets are broadly defined to include all forms and types of information that the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep secret, and which derive independent, actual or potential economic value from being unknown to the public. Continue reading

Published on:

Paramount Pictures holds the copyright to Klingon, spoken by some characters in “Star Trek.” A group called the Language Creation Society says that’s not right. The Hollywood Reporter says the group sued saying Klingon is a real language, Paramount can’t copyright it any more than it could English or Chinese. Paramount has been forced to defend itself by arguing that Klingon is fake and therefore in reality useless.

Super Lawyers named Illinois business trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, non-compete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes.  Our Roselle and Addison business dispute lawyers handle emergency business law suits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling (630) 333-0000 or our toll free number (877) 990-4990.  You can also contact us online here.

Published on:

We help our clients solve copyright issues and business dispute problems through negotiations, litigation or mediation.

 

Continue reading

Published on:

Trade Secrets: Buckley v. Abuzir, 2014 IL App (1st) 130469

“You’re Hired: Now Hand Over the Goods”

In addition to potential tax advantages, the principal reason to create a corporation is limited personal liability, which means that the debts and liabilities of the corporation are distinct from those of its shareholders. However, in certain circumstances, courts are empowered to ‘pierce the corporate veil’ and impose personal liability on the officers and potentially even the shareholders of a corporation if there has been gross undercapitalization of the corporation, or if corporate funds have been improperly comingled with non-corporate funds, or if it finds that a ‘sham’ corporation has been designed to improperly shield the individual directors or shareholders from personal liability.

What if, in order to obtain proprietary information, an employer created a sham corporation, hired you as an employee, and then claimed your former business’s lifeblood — all its proprietary trade secrets? That is what is alleged in the April 2014 Illinois appellate case, Buckley v. Abuzir, 2014 IL App (1st) 130469. Continue reading

Published on:

After a woman filed suit against a fundraising company for alleged payroll violations, the company brought counterclaims against her, including a claim for alleged breach of a covenant not to compete. Fields v. QSP, Inc. (Fields 2), No. CV 12-1238 CAS (PJWx), opinion (C.D. Cal., Jun. 4, 2012). The plaintiff filed the lawsuit as a putative class action on behalf of employees subjected to employment practices that allegedly violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various California statutes. After hearing several competing motions for summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings, the court dismissed some of the plaintiff’s employment law claims and retained others. It also ruled that the covenant not to compete in the plaintiff’s employment contract was unenforceable under California law.

The defendant, QSP, Inc., serves a nationwide clientele of youth organizations and schools. It employed the plaintiff from 1999 to 2010, primarily as a “Sales and Service Specialist.” Her job involved researching and contacting potential clients, assisting “field sales managers” (FSMs), and maintaining a database (the “QSP Database”) of current and prospective school customers. A covenant not to compete in her employment contract stated that she may not contact fundraising organizations that she “solicited or serviced during [her] employment by QSP” for a period of twelve months. Fields 2 at 12. QSP alleged that the plaintiff did not delete the QSP Database from her computer when her employment ended, and used the database to provide services to QSP’s competitors.

Continue reading