Non-Compete and Trade Secret News for the week ended February 3, 2017
Defend Trade Secrets Act
I alluded to this case in my prior post.
But we have another federal district court case that discusses the Defend Trade Secrets Act and the ex parte seizure order. In Magnesita Refractories Co. v. Mishra, the court found that a temporary restraining order issued under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65, which mandated the seizure of a defendant's laptop, did not require the plaintiff to follow the process outlined in Section 1836(b)(2) of the DTSA.
This is about as in-the-weeds as you can get, but it reaffirms the much larger point: courts are going to issue TROs that have the same effect as the seizure order. And if that's the protocol, then the seizure order may - as I predicted - be more bark than bite. A copy of Judge Simon's ruling, which is truly for nerds like me, is available here.
Tesla Motors has sued a director of its Autopilot program, Sterling Anderson, claiming misappropriation of "hundreds of gigabytes" of confidential information and improper solicitation of Tesla employees. The Complaint reads like a typical bad divorce between a key employee and a jilted employer, with some fairly serious allegations related to efforts to conceal electronic evidence and pre-termination "cloak and dagger" meetings to plan a competing venture. In California, where the suit is based, post-employment restrictions on soliciting employees are enforceable. That's the centerpiece of the contract claim.
The case is pending in Santa Clara Superior Court. A copy of the Complaint is available here. For a detailed news account, see this article in The Verge.
Sixth Circuit Appeal
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this week heard oral argument in the case of Stryker Corp. v. Ridgeway, No. 16-1654. A jury in the Western District of Michigan entered a verdict in favor of Stryker in the amount of $745,000, which was based in part on Ridgeway's breach of a non-compete agreement. Among other things, the appeal raises a very important choice-of-law/choice-of-forum issue concerning Louisiana law. That state's law is very favorable to employees, but the district court did not apply it. (The district court ruling on the choice-of-law issue is at 2015 WL 5682317.)
Russell Beck discusses in his Fair Competition blog post the renewed efforts at non-compete reform in Massachusetts. This has become an annual rite of passage. Seyfarth Shaw discusses the same proposals floating around the Massachusetts house and senate.
IPWatchdog has posted an article entitled How to Write Enforceable Non-Compete Agreements. This is a very nice, concise summary of employers' considerations in deciding whether and how to use restrictive covenants. A number of helpful quotes from some of my colleagues...
Other colleagues of mine, from Seyfarth Shaw, have posted their Top Developments/Headlines in Trade Secret, Computer Fraud, and Non-Compete Law in 2016. This post is notably longer than my year-end list and gives a few more illustrative cases - particularly on non-competes and federal computer fraud claims.