Category Archives: Preemption

Applying Concepcion, U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down West Virginia Rule That Held Unenforceable Certain Predispute Arbitration Agreements Claims Against Nursing Homes

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In a per curiam opinion today applying the rule in Concepcion, the U.S. Supreme Court  reversed and remanded orders of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, which held unenforceable all predispute arbitration agreements that apply to claims alleging personal injury or wrongful death against  nursing homes.  Marmet Health Care Center, Inc., et al. v.  Clayton Brown, et al., Case Nos. 11–391 and 11–394, 565 U. S. ____ (Feb. 21, 2012).

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the “Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, by misreading and disregarding the precedents of this Court interpreting the FAA, did not follow controlling federal law implementing that basic principle.”  Id.  “When this Court has fulfilled its duty to interpret federal law, a state court may not contradict or fail to implement the rule so established.”

Background

In each of three negligence suits, a family member of a patient requiring extensive nursing care had signed an agreement with a nursing home on behalf of the patient.  Id. The agreements included arbitration clauses requiring the parties to arbitrate all disputes, other than claims to collect late payments owed by the patient.  Id. In each of the three cases, a family member of a patient who had died sued the nursing home in state court, alleging that negligence caused injuries or harm resulting in death. Id.

In a decision concerning all three cases, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia held that “as a matter of public policy under West Virginia law, an arbitration clause in a nursing home admission agreement adopted prior to an occurrence of negligence that results in a personal injury or wrongful death, shall not be enforced to compel arbitration of a dispute concerning the negligence.”  Id.

The state court considered whether the state public policy was pre-empted by the FAA: Continue reading

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Ninth Circuit Holds That Newspaper Reporters Not Exempt

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On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in “all respects” the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs, a judgment after jury and bench trials, and an award of attorney’s fees to plaintiffs.  Wang v. Chinese Daily News, Inc., Nos. 08-55483, 08-56740, — F.3d —-, 2010 WL 3733568 (9th Cir. Sept. 27, 2010).  Among other things, the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff newspaper reporters were non-exempt.  (Thank you to Randy Renick for bringing this case to my attention.)

Background

Employees of Chinese Daily News, Inc. (“CDN”), a Chinese-language newspaper, filed suit against CDN on behalf of current, former, and future CDN employees based in CDN’s San Francisco and Monterey Park (Los Angeles), California locations.  Id. *1.  Plaintiffs claimed violations of the FLSA, California’s Labor Code, and California’s Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, alleging that employees were made to work in excess of eight hours per day and forty hours per week. Id. 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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Second District Holds That Hotel Service Charge Reform Ordinance Is Not Preempted by Labor Code’s Tip Provisions

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Yesterday, the Second District issued an opinion addressing the validity of the Hotel Service Charge Reform Ordinance (Ordinance) enacted by the City of Los Angeles, which requires non-unionized hotels in the Century Corridor near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to pass along mandatory service charges to workers who render the services for which the charges have been collected.  Garcia v. Four Points Sheraton LAX, et al., Nos. B210720, B210716, B210719, B210726, B210730, — Cal. Rptr. 3d —-, 2010 WL 3491954 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist. Sept. 8, 2010). Continue reading

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Eastern District of California Rejects UTSA Preemption of Contractual Nondisclosure Claim

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Since the opinion in  Court of Appeal decision in K.C. Multimedia, Inc. v. Bank of America Technology & Operations, Inc., 171 Cal. App. 4th 939, 954 (2009), defendants have successfully demurred to common law-based causes of action, arguing that the UTSA preempts them.  In this next case, Removable Media Solutions v. AAR Mobility Systems, 2010 WL 3034219 (E.D. Cal. July 28, 2010) (slip op.), defense counsel takes it one step further, arguing that the statute preempts a contract claim.  This is despite the language of the statute that expressly excludes preemption of “contractual remedies, whether or not based upon misappropriation of a trade secret“.

Plaintiff Removable Media Solutions, Inc. (“RMSI”) previously sought to sell a telecommunications device to the California National Guard. RMSI sought the assistance of defendant AAR Manufacturing, Inc., (“AAR”) in this endeavor. The California National Guard eventually elected to retain the services of AAR but not RMSI in producing the device, and AAR subsequently sold similar devices to other states.

RMSI’s claims alleged that AAR breached a non-disclosure agreement. AAR sought summary judgment on both.  The court denied the motion as to the non-disclosure agreement.

AAR’s sole argument for summary judgment on this claim was that it was preempted by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, as by California, and in particular by Cal. Civ. Code § 3426.7. In pertinent part, this statute provides that:

(a) Except as otherwise expressly provided, this title does not supersede any statute relating to misappropriation of a trade secret, or any statute otherwise regulating trade secrets.

(b) This title does not affect

(1) contractual remedies, whether or not based upon misappropriation of a trade secret,

(2) other civil remedies that are not based upon misappropriation of a trade secret, or

(3) criminal remedies, whether or not based upon misappropriation of a trade secret.

“Undaunted by the statute’s explicit statement that it does not affect contractual remedies, AAR argues that the statute preempts for breach of the non-disclosure agreement. This assault on the plain language of the statute fails.”

The Court wrote:

Courts have held that except for the three exemptions noted in subsection (b), the statute implicitly “preempts common law claims that are based on misappropriation of a trade secret.” Ali v. Fasteners for Retail, Inc., 544 F.Supp.2d 1064, 1070 (E.D.Cal.2008) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also K.C. Multimedia, Inc. v. Bank of America Technology & Operations, Inc., 171 Cal.App. 4th 939, 954 (2009), Accuimage Diagnostics Corp. v. Terarecon, Inc., 260 F.Supp.2d 941, 954 (N.D.Cal.2003) (holding that this interpretation was implied by Cadence Design Systems, Inc. v. Avant! Corp., 29 Cal.4th 215, 224 (2002)).

AAR’s argument that this implicit preemption extends to contract claims invokes a gross misreading of the caselaw. AAR quotes the statement from Digital Envoy, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 370 F.Supp.2d 1025 (N.D.Cal.2005) that “all state law claims based on the same nucleus of facts as the trade secrets claim are preempted under California’s UTSA.” Id. at 1034.FN4 AAR argues that notwithstanding the statute’s explicit saving of contract claims, courts have stated that “common law claims” arising out of the same operative facts as a trade secret claims are preempted, and that contract claims are common law claims, so contract claims must be preempted.

To the extent that Digital Envoy held that “all claims” are preempted, it plainly referred to “all claims” argued to be preempted in that case, i.e., claims for unfair competition and unjust enrichment. Id. at 1035 (“California’s statute. preempts Digital’s claims for unfair competition and unjust enrichment.”). Digital Envoy and other cases have explicitly recognized that § 3426.7 does not preempt contract claims. Id. (§ 3426.7 “explicitly states that claims based upon breach of contract … are not preempted by the statute.”); see also First Advantage Background Servs. Corp. v. Private Eyes, Inc., 569 F.Supp.2d 929, 936 (N.D.Cal.2008), HiRel Connectors, Inc. v. United States, No. CV 01-11069, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93332 (C.D.Cal. July 18, 2006) (“Plaintiff’s claim for breach of contract is not preempted by California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act.”). While few California courts have spoken to the scope of this statute, at least one state court has allowed a claim for breach of a non-disclosure agreement to proceed in parallel with a claim for misappropriation of trade secrets. Glue-Fold, Inc. v. Slautterback Corp., 82 Cal.App. 4th 1018, 1021 (2000). Although Glue-Fold did not discuss possible preemption of the contract claim, this may well be because the issue was so clear as to require no discussion.

Although this conclusion should be obvious, the court has exhaustively searched cases citing § 3426.7, finding no cases providing even implicit support for AAR’s theory. AAR’s motion is therefore denied as to this claim.

Id. **4-5.

Senior District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton wrote the opinion.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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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

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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. seqId. *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. Continue reading

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