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Archive for the ‘California Appellate Opinions’ Category

Sixth District Holds That Reasonable Royalties Available When a Defendant Has Not Realized a Profit or Other Calculable Benefit

In California Appellate Opinions, Damages, Reasonable Royalty, Unjust enrichment on August 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm
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Today, in Ajaxo Inc. v. E*Trade Financial Corporation, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, H033631, 2010 WL 3386479 (Cal. Ct. App. 6th Dist. Aug. 30, 2010), the Sixth District held that where a defendant has not realized a profit or other calculable benefit as a result of his or her misappropriation of a trade secret, unjust enrichment is not provable within the meaning of section 3426.3(b). Thus, the trial court had discretion pursuant to section 3426.3(b) to order payment of a reasonable royalty.

Plaintiff Ajaxo Inc. (Ajaxo), sued defendant E*Trade Financial Corporation (E*Trade) for misappropriation of trade secrets under the California Uniform Trade Secret Act.  E*Trade was found liable in a prior jury trial, where a jury determined that E*Trade had willfully and maliciously misappropriated Ajaxo’s trade secrets.  Id. *1.  A second trial determined the extent to which E*Trade had been unjustly enriched by its misappropriation.  Id. Read the rest of this entry »

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Orrick Wins 6-Year Long Misappropriation of Trade Secrets Battle for Intel

In California Appellate Opinions on August 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm
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On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court denied review of Sivaco Data Systems v. Intel Corp., 184 Cal. App. 4th 210, 109 Cal. Rptr.3d 27 (Cal. Ct. App. 6th Dist. Apr. 29, 2010), ending a six-year long trade secret misappropriation battle.

Plaintiff Silvaco Data Systems (Silvaco) sued defendant Intel Corporation (Intel) alleging that Intel had misappropriated certain trade secrets used by Silvaco in its software products. Id. *215.  The gravamen of the dispute was that Intel had used software acquired from another software concern with knowledge that Silvaco had accused that concern of incorporating source code, stolen from Silvaco, in its products. Id. **215-16. Read the rest of this entry »

Employee Has Viable Tameny Claim Against New Employer for Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy When Terminated by New Employer, Who Cites Alleged “Understanding” Between Old and New Employer to Honor Old Employer’s Noncompetition Agreement

In California Appellate Opinions, Employee Mobility, Wrongful Termination on August 3, 2010 at 8:59 am
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While this next case doesn’t deal directly with trade secrets, it addresses a common fact pattern in the employee mobility arena.  The Second District Court of Appeal in Silguero v. Creteguard, Inc., — Cal. Rptr. 3d —-, 2010 WL 2978222, *1 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist. July 30, 2010) decided the issue of whether a terminated employee working in the area of sales has a viable claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy under Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 27 Cal. 3d 167 (1980), against her subsequent employer when the employee’s former employer contacts the employee’s subsequent employer and informs it that the employee had signed an agreement with the former employer which prohibited the employee “from all sales activities for 18 months following either departure or termination,” and the subsequent employer terminated the employee’s employment out of “respect and understanding with colleagues in the same industry,” notwithstanding its belief that “non-compete clauses are not legally enforceable here in California .”  Silguero, 2010 WL 2978222, *1.

Citing California Business and Professions Code section 16600’s legislative declaration of California’s “settled legislative policy in favor of open competition and employee mobility” (Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP (2008) 44 Cal.4th 937, 946 ( Edwards )), we conclude that the employee has a viable Tameny claim.”  Silguero, 2010 WL 2978222, *1.
The Court cited the alleged “understanding” between the old employer and the new employer to honor the old employers noncompetition agreement.  The new employer Creteguard admitted in writing that it entered into this understanding with the old employer, “although [the new employer] believe[d] that non-compete clauses are not legally enforceable here in California,” because the new employer “would like to keep the same respect and understanding with colleagues in the same industry.”

The Court reasoned that this alleged understanding is “tantamount to a no-hire agreement.” Silguero, 2010 WL 2978222, *6.  The Court concluded that such an “understanding” between the new and old employer “would be void and unenforceable under section 16600 because it ‘unfairly limit[s] the mobility of an employee’ and because [the old employer] ‘should not be ‘allowed to accomplish by indirection that which it cannot accomplish directly.’” Silguero, 2010 WL 2978222, *1 (citing VL Systems, Inc. v. Unisen, Inc., 152 Cal. App. 4th 708, 716-17 (2007).

[P]ermitting a Tameny claim against Creteguard under the circumstances of this case furthers the interest of employees in their own mobility and betterment, “‘deemed paramount to the competitive business interests of the employers, where neither the employee nor his new employer has committed any illegal act accompanying the employment change.’” (Dowell v. Biosense Webster, Inc. (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 564, 575, quoting Diodes, Inc. v. Franzen, supra, 260 Cal.App.2d at p. 255 [in Dowell, both employees and their current employers sued a former employer to invalidate a noncompetition agreement].)  For all of the foregoing reasons, we conclude that Silguero has pleaded a viable Tameny claim against Creteguard predicated on the public policy in section 16600.

Id. *6.

The Court created a new avenue of liability for employers, who must now carefully decide how to respond to cease and desist letters from old employers.   Creteguard would almost certainly have fared better had it avoided the unnecessary editorializing in its termination letter.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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Sixth District Reverses Grant of Summary Adjudication of UTSA Claim on Equitable Estoppel Grounds

In California Appellate Opinions, Statute of Limitations on July 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm
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In Insyst Ltd. v. Applied Materials, Inc., 2010 WL 2892712 (Cal. Ct. App. Jul. 22, 2010) (unpublished), the California Sixth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s grant of summary adjudication of plaintiff’s misappropriation of trade secrets cause of action.  The trial court granted summary adjudication based on the lapse of the statute of limitations.  The Court of Appeal reversed on equitable estoppel grounds.  Defendant “effectively concedes that in its motion it presented no evidence of plaintiff’s conduct after December 2002 apart from the filing of the complaint on July 30, 2004. Instead, in its reply defendant simply challenged plaintiff to present evidence of its diligence, arguing that plaintiff made no showing of diligence. This is not how a party should be able to obtain a summary adjudication.”

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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