Category Archives: Trade Secrets

Trade Secrets Preemption Ruling: CUTSA Supersedes Common Law Claims Where Plaintiff Alleges a Confidentiality Agreement But Failed to Allege Defendant Was Bound by It

District Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of Californ

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ia held that the California Uniform Trade Secret Act (“CUTSA”) superseded common law claims for misappropriation, conversion, unjust enrichment, and trespass to chattels.  Heller v. Cepia, L.L.C., No. C1101146JSW, 2012 WL 13572 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 4 2012) (slip op.).  Plaintiff alleged the existence of confidentiality agreements but not that defendants were bound by them.  Id.

Background

Plaintiff Heller was the sole proprietor of Floating Lightbulb Toys. Id. *1. He accused Cepia, A-Tech, The Bean and Ying Leung International Limited (“Ying Leung”) of misappropriating his trade secrets regarding his toy hamster project.  Id.  Cepia moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for failure to state a claim and for sanctions under FRCP 11. Id. Plaintiff filed a counter-motion for sanctions against Cepia. Id. The Bean and A-Tech moved to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Id.

Discussion

Cepia argued that Plaintiff’s common law claims were superseded by CUTSA. Id. Citing Silvaco Data Systems v. Intel Corp., 184 Cal.App.4th 210 (April 29, 2010), the court noted that “common law claims premised on the wrongful taking of information that does not qualify as a trade secret are also superseded, unless the plaintiff identifies some law which confers property rights protecting the information.”   Heller, 2012 WL 13572, at *1.

While Plaintiff argued that his confidential information that was not a trade secret is still property because he entered into agreements providing that any non-secret confidential and proprietary business information would remain his property. Id. The court disagreed, dismissing the common law claims: Continue reading

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Eastern District of New York Holds That Contact List Is Not Entitled to Trade Secret Protection Because Information is Readily Duplicated Through Facebook or LinkedIn

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In a sign of the times, District Judge Arthur D. Spatt of the Eastern District of New York adopted the recommendations of Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson who denied a motion for preliminary injunction in a trade secrets misappropriation case involving a customer list.  Sasqua Group, Inc. v. Courtney, No. CV 10-528(ADS)(AKT), 2010 WL 3613855 (E.D.N.Y. 2010 Aug. 2, 2010) (slip op.). The court reasoned that because the information could be properly acquired or readily duplicated through public databases such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the information was not entitled to trade secret protection.  Id. *23.

In sum, Plaintiffs have failed to prove a physical appropriation or copying of confidential information or wrongful disclosure or use of a trade secret. See Leo Silfen, 29 N.Y.2d at 389, 328 N.Y.S.2d at 424, 278 N.E.2d 636. The information in Sasqua’s database concerning the needs of its clients, their preferences, hiring practices, and business strategies, as well as Sasqua’s acquaintance with key decision-makers at those firms may well have been a protectable trade secret in the early years of Sasqua’s existence when greater time, energy and resources may have been necessary to acquire the level of detailed information to build and retain the business relationships at issue here. However, for good or bad, the exponential proliferation of information made available through full-blown use of the Internet and the powerful tools it provides to access such information in 2010 is a very different story. Continue reading

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Northern District Denies Preliminary Injunction Where Plaintiff’s Declaration Failed to Show Customer List Was the Result of Substantial Time, Expense and Effort on Part of Plaintiff

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The Northern District of California denied defendants’ motion to dismiss based on UTSA preemption and denied plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.  Kovesdy v. Kovesdy, C 10-02012 SBA, 2010 WL 3619826 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 13, 2010) (slip op.). Plaintiff Eric Kovesdy (“Eric” or “Plaintiff”) sued his stepmother, Defendant Hedy Kovesdy (“Hedy”) for, inter alia, for misappropriation of trade secrets under California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 3426-3426.11, and trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a). Id. (1) Defendants moved to dismiss; and (2) Plaintiff moved for preliminary injunction.

Background

Peter Kovesdy (“Peter”) opened a professional tax practice known as Humex Income Tax (“Humex”).   Continue reading

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Third Circuit Affirms Award of Damages in Misappropriation of Trade Secrets Case and Denial of Recovery on Injunction Bond After Employee’s Partial Success on Appeal

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s award of damages against employees on a claim brought by their former employer for, inter alia, misappropriation of trade secrets.  Latuszewski v. Valic Financial Advisors, Inc., No. 08-1511, 2010 WL 3582434 (3rd Cir. Sept. 15, 2010).   Former employer, VALIC Financial Advisors, Inc., bought claims against former employees Gary Latuszewski and James Rogan alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade secrets, and tortious interference with contract. Id. *1. Employees appealed arguing that this award was in error and also that the District Court erred in declining to award them damages under VALIC’s injunction bond after this court vacated part of the District Court’s temporary injunction against them. Id. Continue reading

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