Mere Reference to Patent Does Not Confer Federal Jurisdiction Over UTSA Claim

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In this next case, Judge James Lorenz of the Southern District of California runs through a federal question analysis and concludes that Plaintiff’s mere reference to the fact his intellectual property is patented does not convert a state law UTSA claim into a federal question that can impart original jurisdiction in the federal courts.  Markey v. Verimatrix, Inc., 2010 WL 2976164 (S.D. Cal. July 22, 2010) (slip op.).

A careful review of plaintiff’s misappropriation of trace secret claim as found in the complaint does not suggest a basis for federal jurisdiction. The issue presented for decision is not whether plaintiff’s patents are valid or invalid or are or are not being infringed but whether his intellectual property was misappropriated. Mere reference to the fact that plaintiff’s intellectual property was patented does not turn on a substantial question of federal law. Plaintiff is not seeking to prove his trade secrets are protected under federal patent law and that defendant infringed on the patent. And the Court is not called to determine in any manner the scope and meaning of plaintiff’s patent in order to consider the alleged trade secret misappropriation. The misappropriation of trade secret claim does not ‘turn on substantial questions of federal law,’ and does not ‘really and substantially involv[e] a dispute or controversy respecting the validity, construction or effect of [federal] law.’ “ Williston Basin, 524 F.3d at 1102. Instead, the sole remaining claim in the complaint is based solely on California law. As a result, the Court does not have original jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claim.


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