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Posts Tagged ‘Intellectual property’

In Trade Secrets Case Related to Barnes and Noble’s Nook Device: Court Grants Partial Summary Judgment Based on Disclosure of Secrets in Patent Applications, But Rejects UTSA Preemption Argument as Premature

In Disclosure of Secret in Patent Application, Motions for Summary Judgment/Adjudication, Patents and Copyrights, Preemption on January 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm
Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader is tiny!
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The Northern District of California granted partial summary judgment to a defendant in a trade secrets case on the ground that plaintiff disclosed its information to the public in its published patent applications.  Spring Design, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, LLC, No. C 09-05185 JW, 2010 WL 5422556 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 27, 2010) (slip op.).  The court rejected defendant’s argument that plaintiff’s UCL claim was preempted by the UTSA because “if the confidential information is not a trade secret, then preemption would not apply because the claim would seek a civil remedy not based on the  misappropriation of a trade secret.” Id. *10.

Background

In 2006 and 2007, Plaintiff filed several patent applications which claim different variations of an eReader with a dual-display design, consisting of an electronic paper display (“EPD”) and a liquid crystal display (“LCD”).  Id. *1.  In 2009, Plaintiff and Defendant explored possible collaboration on an eReader, and the parties entered into a nondisclosure agreement (“NDA”) in which the parties agreed not to disclose, reproduce, transmit or use the other’s confidential information except to certain employees on a need-to-know basis.  Id. From February to October 2009, Plaintiff and Defendant conducted several meetings and exchanged emails regarding Plaintiff’s eReader technology.  But on October 20, 2009, Defendant announced the release of the NOOK—its Android-based, dual-screen eReader.  Id. *2.  In 2010, Plaintiff launched its competing eReader device, the Alex, which is also a dual-screen eReader. Id.

Plaintiff Spring Design, Inc. brought an action Barnesandnoble.com, LLC alleging, inter alia, misappropriation of trade secrets and violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200, et. seq. Id. *1.Plaintiff alleged that Barnesandnoble.com used Plaintiff’s confidential information to develop a competing eReader device, the Nook, in violation of the parties’ non-disclosure agreement. Id. The parties brought cross motions for summary judgment.

Discussion

Defendant moved for summary judgment on the UTSA cause of action on the grounds that, inter alia: Plaintiff’s information does not qualify for trade secret protection because Plaintiff disclosed its information to the public in its published patent applications.  Id. **3-4. Read the rest of this entry »

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Approaches to Damages in Trade Secret Cases

In Damages, Practice articles, Reasonable Royalty, Unjust enrichment on October 20, 2010 at 7:59 pm
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Once a trade secret lawsuit progress beyond the preliminary injunction stage, the key battleground usually shifts to damages.  Assessing damages can be particularly difficult in a trade secret case because of the problematic uncertainty in measuring the value of trade secrets.  Marc Pensabene and Christopher Loh summarized some of the flexible approaches that plaintiffs and defendants might pursue in arguing for and against trade secrets damages calculations.

From the plaintiff’s perspective, the authors offer the following aggressive approaches (not all of which have been accepted by California courts):

  • In calculating lost profits, argue that the amounts should include not only lost sales that were diverted from the plaintiff to the defendant, but also losses attributable to price erosion or to increased costs cause by the misappropriation, such as the costs of an advertising campaign to recoup market share stolen by defendant
  • Argue for provable future profits, overhead costs, general and administrative expenses, lost profits on reorder or spare parts or other natural follow-on items
  • Ask the court to calculate plaintiff’s lost profits by applying the defendant’s profit margins to the plaintiff’s lost sales
  • In seeking unjust enrichment, if the defendant does not incorporate the trade secret into a product but rather uses it to promote its existing products or to develop new and different products, ask for a portion from those products
  • If plaintiff is unable to prove lost profits or unjust enrichment, seek development costs (so-called “head-start” damages), the diminution of the value of the plaintiff’s business or stock, or a reasonable royalty based either on the actual royalties that have been paid to the plaintiff, or a hypothetical royalty that the litigants would have negotiated at the time of the misappropriation Read the rest of this entry »

Trade Secrets Basics for Small Businesses

In Seminars and MCLE on October 12, 2010 at 10:54 am
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Steve Obenski  posted a useful video directed to small business, entitled Trade Secrets for Small Businesses 101.  In the video, he discusses what a trade secret is, ways to protect trade secrets, and limitations of trade secrets compared to patent and other areas of intellectual property law.

By CHARLES JUNG

After Nine Years of Litigation, Jasmine Networks v. Marvell Semiconductor Finally Proceeds to Trial

In Trial on October 5, 2010 at 9:38 am
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After over nine years of litigation, the trade secrets misappropriation case in Jasmine Networks, Inc. v. Marvell Semiconductor, Inc. is underway.   As reported by Kate Moser of The Recorder, Jasmine, represented by San Francisco’s McGrane Greenfield, contends that Marvell abused a nondisclosure agreement to rip off valuable intellectual property and claims that it lost business worth $80 million to $100 million.  Marvell’s attorneys have argued that Jasmine’s alleged trade secrets are based on stolen technology that Jasmine tried to pass off to Marvell as its own: “The truth is that Jasmine was a failed start-up founded at the tail end of the technology boom of the late 1990s,” Bauer wrote in Marvell’s trial brief. “In its short life, it never completed a product, did not obtain a single patent, and earned not a penny of revenue.”

The case was filed on September 12, 2001, and has featured two appeals to the Sixth District Court of Appeal.  Last June, the trial judge dismissed the case for lack of standing by Jasmine, but the Sixth District reversed, and the California Supreme Court denied Marvell’s petition for review and stay.

Jasmine’s key evidence is an infamous voice mail accidentally left by Marvell’s former general counsel, where he called a Jasmine in-house lawyer and apparently meant to hang up, but allegedly continued to talk with two colleagues on speakerphone about stealing trade secrets from Jasmine.  The voicemail was finally played for a jury on Friday.  A transcript prepared by Jasmine quotes Marvell’s former general counsel as saying: Read the rest of this entry »

Northern District Applies Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 2019.210 Pre-Discovery Disclosure Requirements

In C.C.P. § 2019.210 Pre-Discovery Disclosure, Discovery on September 11, 2010 at 10:12 am
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The Northern District applied California’s trade secret disclosure procedure, and found Plaintiff’s disclosure partially sufficient.  M.A. Mobile Ltd. v. Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, No. C08-02658 RMW (HRL), 2010 WL 3490209 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2010) (slip op.). Read the rest of this entry »

Northern District Dismisses UTSA Cause of Action for Source Code Partially Filed With Copyright Office

In Copyright, Motion to Dismiss on September 9, 2010 at 8:29 am
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The Northern District dismissed a California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA or CUTSA) cause of action in a software code distribution case for failure to adequately allege secrecy. Kema, Inc. v. Koperwhats, No. C-09-1587 MMC, 2010 WL 3464708 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2010) (slip op.). Read the rest of this entry »

Southern District Jury Issues Verdict for $2,969,932 on Misappropriation of Trade Secrets Claims

In Verdicts on September 2, 2010 at 7:51 am
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Plaintiff in a trade secret misappropriation and patent infringement case won a jury verdict for $11,909,797.  I-Flow Corporation vs. Apex Medical Technologies Inc., No. 07CV01200(DMS), 36 Trials Digest 13th 16 (S.D. Cal. Verdict Date Oct. 28, 2009).  As reported by Trials Digest, plaintiff’s award included $1,484,966 damages from defendant Apex to plaintiff for misappropriation of plaintiff’s trade secrets; and$1,484,966 damages from defendant McGlothlin to plaintiff for misappropriation of plaintiff’s trade secrets. Read the rest of this entry »

Implementing a Trade Secret Protection Program

In Implementation of Security Program on August 31, 2010 at 10:59 am
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Metropolitan Corporate Counsel has an interview with Alan Gutterman regarding how to implement a trade secret protection program.  Gutterman recites some of the common elements to such a program:

[A]doption of security measures to mark trade secrets, thus, identifying what is or is not considered to be confidential. The programs also include segregation of trade secret information and limitation of access to the trade secret owner or other authorized personnel. I also recommend that a program places employees on notice that the company maintains confidentiality of its trade secret information and that each employee has a duty to assist in protecting such items. Read the rest of this entry »

Northern District Holds No Cause of Action Exists for Misappropriation of “Ideas”

In Motion to Dismiss, Preliminary Injunction on August 28, 2010 at 6:30 am
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The Northern District held that no cause of action exists for “misappropriation of business ideas”.  Interserve, Inc. v. Fusion Garage PTE. Ltd., No. C 09-5812 RS (PVT), 2010 WL 3339520 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2010) (slip op.).

Plaintiff Interserve, Inc. and Fusion Garage collaborated in an attempt to bring to market a tablet computer, which they intended to call the “CrunchPad.”  Id. *1.  Shortly before the parties had planned to announce that the product would soon be released, defendant Fusion Garage advised plaintiffs that it would proceed on its own, and market a tablet computer under the name “joojoo” instead. Id. Plaintiffs brought suit, alleging that they are co-owners of the joojoo.  Id. They sought a preliminary injunction requiring defendant to sequester all proceeds it obtains from selling the product. Id. Defendant opposed the motion for preliminary injunction, and moved to dismiss the complaint, including a claim for misappropriation of “business ideas”. Id. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Trade Secret Protection Better Than a Patent?

In Patents and Copyrights on August 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm

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R. Mark Halligan has published an excellent article in the American Bar Association’s Landslide.

Since every patent starts out as a trade secret, Mr. Halligan discusses whether, given the trends in patent law, it makes sense for the holder of a trade secret to pursue patent protection.

Patent applications face a Catch-22 in pursuing patents.  By “pursuing patent protection unsuccessfully, the inventor has lost both patent protection and trade secret protection because the business method is now in the public domain. This is the ‘Catch-22’ with any patent application disclosed to the public during the USPTO patent prosecution proceedings in the United States. The moment the patent application is published, any trade secret rights in the patent application are vitiated. Then if the patent does not issue, the inventor has lost all proprietary protection. In hindsight, the inventor would have been better off keeping the commercially valuable information secret if patent protection is uncertain.”

Today patents are harder to get and harder to defend.  Halligan discusses how in light of recent patent law cases, the scale has now tipped in favor of pursuing a trade secrets strategy over pursuing a patent application.  See, e.g., In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943, 88 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 138 (Fed. Cir. 2008); KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., 127 S. Ct. 1727 (2007); Warner-Jenkinson Co. v. Hilton Davis Chemical Co., 520 U.S. 17 (1997); In re Seagate Tech., LLC, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2007).

Mr. Halligan concludes that:

it is now time for the intellectual property bar to revisit the decision whether to protect commercially valuable information as a trade secret asset or a patent asset. In recent years, decisions by the U.S. SupremeCourt and other developments in the law have circumscribed the once broad protection afforded to patent holders as well as remedies available to patent holders. Upon consideration of all the issues discussed in this article, the protection of such assets as trade secrets may provide a better choice for your clients in today’s environment.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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