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Spotlight

    Trade Secrets

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    Trade secrets are the essence of a company’s competitive advantage. At the intersection of Pillsbury’s national Litigation, Intellectual Property, and Employment practices is a team of attorneys with significant experience in advising, counseling, and, when necessary, litigating claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, breach of fiduciary duty, and interference with contractual relationships or prospective business advantage.

    Pillsbury attorneys have significant experience representing companies when trade secrets have been misappropriated by either former employees or third parties. Our employment and IP litigators act swiftly to seek emergency remedies such as preliminary injunctions or temporary restraining orders on behalf of our clients. We have experience in prosecuting claims in federal and state courts, as well as before alternative dispute resolution tribunals.

    Pillsbury attorneys also represent companies and employees accused of misappropriating trade secrets or confidential information of other companies and former employers, and have successfully defended misguided attempts at obtaining injunctive relief. We routinely help our clients develop and implement hiring policies and due diligence checklists when hiring key employees from competitors.

    For preventive measures, attorneys in our Employment and IP practices are well versed in conducting audits of existing trade secrets in a company’s IP portfolio to identify potential vulnerabilities or risks. We also assist our clients in identifying certain information that may be protectable as a trade secret. We work with our clients to devise and implement comprehensive internal security plans to protect trade secrets and other confidential information, as well as to educate their employees on the importance of adhering to guidelines protecting trade secrets. Our attorneys understand the nuances of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, California Business and Professions Code Section 16600, and unfair competition state laws. As such, we are adept at preparing and reviewing employment contracts, such as non-disclosure, non-compete, and confidentiality agreements, and advising on the enforceability of certain provisions in these agreements.

    We have counseled on and litigated trade secrets claims for a variety of industries, including high-tech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, financial services, construction, and manufacturing.

    Representative Trade Secrets Matters

    Technology

    • Simparel v. Han (New York State Court / Commercial Part, Nov. 2011). Secured TRO on behalf of Simparel against a former employee with respect to confidential trade secrets relating to fashion industry technology. Settled.


    • Remote Ocean Systems v. Sidus Solutions LLC (San Diego Sup. Ct., 2003). Represented a former employee of Remote Ocean Systems accused of taking trade secrets pertaining to underwater pan and tilt camera systems to start new venture Sidus Solutions. Plaintiff dismissed the complaint in its entirety one month before trial with prejudice.


    • United States v. Woodard (N.D. Cal., 2003-2005). Represented an IT director charged with the attempted sale of trade secrets stored on backup tapes of his employer, Lightwave Microsystems, Inc., to competitor JDS-Uniphase after Lightwave announced it was ceasing operations. Our investigation of the matter and narrowing of the scope of the issues resulted in a favorable plea deal.


    • CognetX v. Houghton and BusinessOne Technologies, Inc. (Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County). Represented CognetX, a provider of healthcare research, analysis and consulting services to pharmaceutical manufacturers, in an action against its former CEO who stole substantial portions of CognetX’s trade secrets, induced CognetX employees to set up a competing business and misappropriated company funds. Secured injunction against the CEO following evidentiary hearing. After turning the case over to local counsel, the case settled.


    • Investigation for Confidential Cloud Services Client. Conducted an internal investigation for a high-profile start-up cloud services provider into a theft of a broad range of trade secrets, including product specifications and source code, by a departing employee who went to work for a competitor. After litigation was threatened, the employee turned over all data related to our client in his possession, including the stolen trade secrets, and sat for a statement under oath in which he admitted numerous times to his misdeeds. We handled the referral of the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


    • Former executives of a Fortune 100 technology company (S.D. Cal., 2004). Defended former executives in a lawsuit brought by a Fortune 100 technology company alleging they misappropriated trade secrets to start a competing business. Settled successfully.


    • Natrocell Technologies, Limited v. James Chuhran, et al. (E.D. Mich., 2003). Represented Natrocell Technologies in litigation over inventorship, theft of trade secrets and patent infringement of all-natural rodenticide formulation. Obtained full rights and assignment of patent on summary judgment.

    • PostX Corporation v. Secure Data in Motion, Inc. d/b/a/ Sigaba (N.D. Cal., Sept. 2002). Obtained a jury verdict on behalf of our client PostX Corporation in bet-the-company litigation alleging unfair competition claims and obtained dismissal of Defendant’s $60 million antitrust and unfair competition claims.


    Healthcare & Biotech

    • CBR v. Cord:Use, Deigan (New Jersey State Court, 2011). Represented CBR, the leading cord blood collection company in the world, in a theft of trade secrets case against one of its former Regional Managers and the competitor to whom he took his stolen trade secrets, Cord:Use, which he joined as their National Sales Manager. Case is pending.


    • The Whatman, Inc. v. Bradley F. Davin and ID Biological Systems, LLC (USDC. S. Car., 2008). Represented Whatman, Inc., a GE Healthcare subsidiary, in a case against a former contractor who stole trade secrets to set up a competing venture. The case ultimately settled.


    • Strategene California vs. Macemon, et al. (San Diego Sup. Ct., 2005). Represented Stratagene and its founder in a trade secret and patent dispute over ownership of an invention for cloning antibodies. Case settled during trial.


    • Represented Lab Corps, a laboratory testing company based in Ohio, in a threatened suit against a former sales executive utilizing confidential information to compete on behalf of another laboratory testing company. The case was settled before commencement of litigation through the use of a draft complaint.


    • Handled a confidential international arbitration between two multinational corporations regarding, among other things, ownership rights in trade secrets related to biotechnology processes.


    Defense Contractors

    • Trade secret litigation for a confidential client (Tenn. State Court). Represented a defense contractor in a trade secrets lawsuit against a competing company formed by former employees. The information involved government contract bids for security services in Iraq and Afghanistan. Settled the case in a confidential settlement.


    • Trade secret litigation for a confidential client (Virginia State Court). Represented a defense contractor and its officers in a trade secrets lawsuit brought by a former employer of several of its employees. The information involved government contract bids for maintenance on Naval vessels. Settled the case in a confidential settlement.


    • Trade secret litigation for a confidential client (Virginia State Court). Represented a defense contractor and its president in response to multiple subpoenas in a trade secrets case brought by another company against a former employee who had become a subcontractor to our client. The information involved government contract bids relating to information technology development. We responded to the subpoenas, our client’s president testified in deposition and trial, and no lawsuit was filed against our client.


    • Raytheon Company v. Lockheed Martin Corporation (E.D. Va., 2005). Represented Raytheon in litigation arising from defendant’s termination of teaming agreement in the electronic warfare systems area and misappropriation of trade secrets and proprietary information. Case settled during hearing on preliminary injunction.


    Equipment Manufacturers

    • Spa Builders Support Group, Inc. vs. Sundance Spas, et al. (E.D. Va., 2004, transferred to C.D. Cal., 2005). Represented Sundance Spas and Jacuzzi Brands in a lawsuit filed by Spa Builders Support Group, Inc., against our clients. The lawsuit claimed that during a period of joint ownership, Sundance Spas improperly copied Spa Builders microprocessor based “LX” model electronic controls by misappropriating engineering trade secrets and that Sundance Spas infringed Spa Builders trademarks by designating the ‘knock-off’ product line as the “LX” control series, causing confusion in the marketplace as to the source of the product and claimed damages of as much as $10 million. After discovery and mediation the case was settled.


    • Otis Elevator vs. General Elevator (D. Md., 1994). Represented General Elevator, Inc. in defense of an action by Otis Elevator Co., GE’s major competitor, alleging unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets concerning a software “tool” to service high rise, microprocessor controlled elevators. Matter favorably settled during discovery.


    • Acco, Inc. vs. Howard (Conn. Sup. Ct., 1992). Represented Acco, Inc. in a suit against a former employee for theft of invention / trade secret developed while the employee was on company time and with company resources. Obtained assignment of all rights.


    Real Estate

    • Young Woo & Assoc. v. Kim (filed in 2010) and Young Woo and Associates v. Kumho Investment Bank (filed in 2011) (New York State Court & Arbitration). Represented the owner of the American International Building in New York in two lawsuits and an arbitration brought by an asset manager alleging theft of confidential information by the asset manager’s employee. The information involved development plans for the building. Won in state court with a finding that the information belonged to our client, and not to the asset manager. Won the arbitration with a finding that our client properly terminated the asset manager because of the asset manager’s interference with our client’s efforts to develop or sell the building.


    • Eldorado Stone, LLC, et al. v. Renaissance Stone, Inc. (S.D. Cal., 2007). Served as lead counsel for Eldorado Stone in a dispute with Renaissance Stone involving issues of trade secret misappropriation, trademark and copyright infringement, and intentional interference with prospective economic relations. Obtained jury verdict in favor of Eldorado in excess of $23 million in compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief, costs and attorneys’ fees after a three-week trial.


    • Kelly Capital v. David Spriggs (San Diego Sup. Ct., 2011). Represented Kelly Capital in an action against its former president who left the company and took proprietary customer information and confidential information regarding deals in development to start a competing business.

    Consumer & Retail

    • Confidential consumer electronics company (San Diego Sup. Ct., 2013). Representing a global consumer electronics company in an action brought against a former employee who allegedly stole trade secrets pertaining to our client’s highly successful product lines, including product specifications, market analyses, new products under development, pricing proposals and other confidential financial information. Case is currently pending; obtained TRO.


    • Crestone Group, LLC v. Starbucks Corporation (S.D. Cal., 2009). Represented Crestone in litigation against Starbucks that alleged breach of supplier agreements and misappropriation of proprietary baked goods recipes after Starbucks terminated contracts with several suppliers as part of its food program revamp. Settled successfully.

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