Articles Posted in Trade Secrets

Washington D. C. – The United States Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 1890, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”). If enacted, the bill would create a private cause of action in the federal courts for trade secret misappropriation.

Under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, a trade secret is defined as:

information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:

(1) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and

(2) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.

The proposed legislation uses a similar definition:

[T]he term “trade secret” means all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information, including patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes, whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing if —

(A) the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and

(B) the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by, the public.

The DTSA would be the civil counterpart to the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, a criminal statute that uses the same definition of “trade secret” as the DTSA.

This would be the first time that individuals would have a private, federal right of action for theft of trade secrets. Presently, those seeking redress in civil court for theft of trade secrets must resort to claims based on state law or seek to have a claim for injunctive relief filed by the Attorney General.

The DTSA, if enacted, would address the current patchwork of state laws protecting trade secrets. While those state statutes are similar, with many states having enacted some form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”), they are not identical.

The DTSA does not preempt any other law. Thus, where a state’s law governing trade secrets is more generous, a plaintiff retains the ability to sue under that state law also, either in state court or as a pendant claim in a federal lawsuit.

The relief offered under the DTSA contains such remedies as monetary damages, including royalty payments, reimbursement of actual losses caused by the defendant and trebling of a monetary award where punitive damages are found to be appropriate. Injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees may also be recoverable.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – An Indiana copyright lawyer for Defendant Wrightspeed, Inc. of San Jose California filed a notice of removal in the Southern District of Indiana on the basis of both federal-question jurisdiction and diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction.

Plaintiff Precision Rings, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana had filed its lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, unspecified damages and attorney’s fees. Among Plaintiff’s contentions was the breach of a nondisclosure agreement. Included in this alleged breach was the misappropriation of Plaintiff’s trade secrets, which involved the use or disclosure by Defendant of certain copyrighted drawings that Plaintiff had registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Defendant Wrightspeed contended that federal-question jurisdiction was proper and asked that the federal court in the Southern District of Indiana hear and decide all further matters in the litigation. Defendant asserted that the complaint arose under copyright law because Plaintiff’s complaint included a claim that would require construction of the Copyright Act. Consequently, subject matter jurisdiction rested exclusively in federal court.

Defendant Wrightspeed also asserted that diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction was a proper basis for the Indiana federal court to hear the litigation. The parties were completely diverse, it stated, with Plaintiff being a citizen of Indiana and Defendant being a citizen of both Delaware and California. Defendant contended further that, considering the potential damages, fees and costs, the amount at stake was well in excess of the $75,000 threshold necessary for diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction.

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Evansville, Indiana – Responding to a complaint filed in Indiana state court by Indiana copyright attorneys, a defense lawyer filed a motion to remove the lawsuit to a federal court in the Southern District of Indiana – Evansville Division.

Plaintiff Professional Transportation, Inc. of Evansville, Indiana (“PTI”) is the former employer of Defendant Robert Warmka of Savage, Minnesota. Warmka worked for PTI from September 2012 to December 2013. PTI contends that this employment was governed in part by a trade-secrets agreement. Subsequent to leaving employment with PTI, Warmka began employment with Minnesota Coaches Inc. (“MCI”) d/b/a Crew Motion, a competitor of PTI.

PTI filed this copyright lawsuit in Vanderburgh Superior Court alleging that Warmka infringed its intellectual property by his use of Plaintiff’s copyrighted driver’s manual within MCI’s driver’s manual. PTI contends that multiple sections of PTI’s manual were reproduced nearly verbatim in MCI’s manual. PTI claims that this manual was filed with the U.S. Copyright Office “on or before 2012.” Plaintiff further contends that Defendant appropriated Plaintiff’s confidential material and trade secrets in violation of a trade secret agreement executed by both parties in 2012.

In this lawsuit, filed by Indiana copyright lawyers, the following counts are asserted:

• Count I: Indiana Trade Secret Violation
• Count II: Unfair Competition

• Count III: Copyright Infringement

Plaintiff alleges loss of business and profits and seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Copyright attorneys for Warmka filed a notice of removal, stating that federal subject-matter jurisdiction was proper on the basis of both federal-question jurisdiction and diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Indiana intellectual property lawyers for Angie’s List Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana sued in the Southern District of Indiana alleging theft of trade secrets. The Defendants in this litigation are AmazonLocal LLC of Seattle, Washington, Michael Albo, Kristin Baker, Dan Beary, Colton Bozigian, Jake Connerton, Adam DiVincenzo, Brandon Goodwyn, Kristen Haught, Justin Hillman, Amit Jain, Joshua Keezer, Olivia Landergan, Daniel Malamud, Raissa Masket, Samantha McDonald, Jason Patrao, Sharon Porter, Darren Reinstein, Billy Restrepo, Michael Shmunis, and Jacquelyn Vail.

In its 42-page complaint, Angie’s List alleges that competing business Amazon Local

and some of its employees misappropriated proprietary information belonging to Angie’s List by fraudulently obtaining membership accounts and, using this members-only access, obtained and misused proprietary information about thousands of service providers about which Angie’s List had gathered data.

Los Angeles, California – Chinese professors have been accused of having stolen valuable technology from Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions to benefit a university in the People’s Republic of China.

On May 16, 2015, Tianjin University Professor Hao Zhang was arrested upon entry into the United States from the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) in connection with a recent superseding indictment in the Northern District of California, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of the FBI’s San Francisco Division.

The 32-count indictment, which had previously been sealed, charges a total of six individuals with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets for their roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of universities and companies controlled by the PRC government.


South Bend, Indiana – Trademark attorneys for Integrity Trade Services, Inc. (“ITS”) of Frankfort, Illinois filed an intellectual property complaint in the Northern District of Indiana naming as Defendants Integrity Employment Partners, LLC, Integrity Trade Services, LLC, Janice Hernandez, James Hernandez, Michaela Williams, and Jason Reis, all of Indiana, and alleging multiple claims, including trademark infringement, conversion of ITS trade secrets, breach of contract, and tortious interference with business relationships.

ITS is a national staffing services company, doing businesses in multiple states, including Indiana, Florida, Illinois, and Texas. ITS is wholly owned by John E. Cumbee, III. In 2008, ITS acquired all of the operational assets of the Knox, Indiana branch of a staffing company owned by CES America, Inc. ITS also hired most, if not all, of the CES employees then working at the Knox facility, including defendants James and Janice Hernandez.

ITS contends that, since purchasing the Knox facility, it has invested well over $1 million to build the Knox business and the ITS brand as it is related to that facility. It asserts in this federal lawsuit, inter alia, that Defendants conspired to convert ITS’ customers, employees and trade secrets for their own use.

The accused in this case are husband and wife Janice Hernandez and James Hernandez; several family members of Janice Hernandez, including Michaela Williams, and Jason Reis; and two entities apparently owned by the Hernandezes, Integrity Employment Partners, LLC, Integrity Trade Services, LLC.

Defendant James Hernandez (“James”) worked for ITS from the time that ITS acquired the business until April 30, 2015 when he was fired. ITS asserts that James engaged in a conspiracy to solicit away and convert (a) ITS’ office employees at the Knox location, (b) at least the active ITS field employees servicing the Knox location, and (c) customers comprising the Knox-area business. He is accused of attempting to transfer them to Integrity Employment Partners, LLC, an Indiana limited liability company formed to process the Knox business converted from ITS for his benefit and the benefit of the other co-conspirators.

Defendant Janice Hernandez (“Janice”), also became employed by ITS when ITS was acquired from its prior owner. She has been accused of not only being an integral part of the alleged conspiracy but also of being “likely its “‘mastermind.'” Defendant Michaela Williams is Janice’s daughter. Defendant Jason Reis is the ex-son-in-law of James and Janice, having been married to another of Janice’s daughters.

ITS states that, in the last two weeks in April 2015, it discovered various anomalies in the Knox business. These anomalies alerted ITS to the activities that triggered this federal lawsuit. They included a drop off in weekly gross sales, the formation of Integrity Employment Partners, LLC (“IEP”), and checks issued by existing ITS customers made payable to IEP (and not ITS).

Defendants are accused of orchestrating a scheme to confuse ITS’ customers and employees regarding with which staffing businesses using the name “Integrity” – Plaintiff’s firm or Defendants’ firms – those customers and employees were transacting business. In doing so, ITS contends, Defendants attempted with some success to convert ITS’ business assets and relationships for Defendants’ benefit. Allegations of criminal conduct by Defendants were also made. In a 48-page complaint, filed by trademark lawyers for Plaintiff, those claims and others are made:

• Count I: Federal Trademark Infringement
• Count II: Federal Unfair Competition
• Count III: Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act
• Count IV: Breach of Fiduciary Duty
• Count V: Breach of Agreement
• Count VI: Tortious Interference with Contract
• Count VII: Tortious Interference with Business Relationships
• Count VIII: Conversion
• Count IX: Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
• Count X: Uniform Trade Secrets Act
• Count XI: Civil Conspiracy
• Count XII: Unjust Enrichment

• Count XIII: Breach of Contract

Plaintiff asks the court for, inter alia, injunctive relief, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, interest and costs.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the directed verdict of Special Judge William E. Alexa of Porter Superior Court. Writing for the Indiana appellate court, Judge John Baker concluded that the trial court had not erred in ruling that Defendants’ information was insufficiently private to constitute trade secrets.

Appellant-Plaintiff Think Tank Software Development Corporation, d/b/a Think Tank Networking Technologies Group and Think Tank Information Systems (“Think Tank”) is engaged in computer-related business activities, including systems and network engineering, problem solving, systems design, implementation, sales, client training, and computer maintenance. During 2001 and 2002, multiple employees left Think Tank and joined its competitor, Chester, Inc.

In 2002, Think Tank sued Chester as well as former Think Tank employees Mike Heinhold, John Mario, Joel Parker, Thomas Guelinas, Jon Meyer, Daniel Curry, Eric M. Wojciechoswki, Michael Gee, Philip Ryan Turner and Carl Zuhl alleging: 1) breach of the covenant not to compete, 2) breach of the confidentiality clause, 3) breach of the agreement not to solicit its employees for other work, 3) tortious interference with contracts, 4) misappropriation of trade secrets, 5) tortious interference with business relationships, 6) unjust enrichment, and 7) defamation. Think Tank also included a claim for unfair competition against Chester.

After much litigation, including two prior appeals to the Indiana Court of Appeals, this Indiana trade secret lawsuit was again heard by the trial court on the remaining claims: misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with contracts, and breach of the covenant not to compete and confidentiality provisions.

The most interesting of the claims in this lawsuit is Think Tank’s assertion of misappropriation of trade secrets. Defendants moved for a directed verdict on that count, as well as all other claims against them. The trial court granted the directed verdict on Think Tank’s claim for misappropriation of trade secrets, reasoning that, “[it] is a question of law for the Court relative to what is and what is not a trade secret. Plaintiff has failed to show that the information obtained was ever, in law, a trade secret.”

Shortly after this ruling, Think Tank sought review a third time from the Indiana Court of Appeals. It claimed that its trade secrets included: 1) the nature and design of its technical solutions; 2) the design of its customers’ computer systems; 3) pricing; and 4) customer identities. Think Tank further argued that the trial court could not determine as a matter of law whether information was a trade secret under Indiana Code section 24-2-3-2, which defines a trade secret as:

information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:

(1) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and


(2) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.

The Indiana appellate court declined to address Think Tank’s argument whether a trial court could determine as a matter of law whether information was a trade secret under Indiana law. However, it concluded that Think Tank had failed in its burden to avoid the directed verdict: “as a matter of law, Think Tank failed to produce enough evidence to allow a reasonable fact finder to determine that the proffered information was trade secrets.” Specifically, it found that Think Tank failed to show that any of the information alleged to be trade secrets was not generally known to or ascertainable by the public.

The appellate court agreed with the Indiana trial court that: 1) the computer certifications and intellectual capital that Think Tank possessed was readily available information; 2) knowledge of customers’ computer systems and current or future needs was readily ascertainable, as such information belonged to the customers in question; and 3) pricing information did not constitute a trade secret, as it too was readily available from the customers. Thus, the information was not a trade secret.

The Indiana appellate court continued that Think Tank appeared not to be trying to protect its trade secrets, but instead to prevent competition. Such a goal, the court said, might be effectuated by a non-competition agreement. However, the use of Indiana legislation designed to protect trade secrets could not properly be stretched to hinder the use of information that appeared to be generally known or readily obtained from another source.

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Tippecanoe County, Indiana -An Indiana trade secret attorney for the National Association of College Stores Inc. (“NACS”), an Ohio-based organization, sued Purdue University of West Lafayette, Indiana in Tippecanoe Superior Court seeking full disclosure of an agreement between Purdue and Inc.

Earlier this year, Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar store on the campus of Purdue University. This store, which allows merchandise to be both picked up and dropped off, was promoted as a way to save Purdue students money. Initial estimates suggest that the Purdue-Amazon partnership has resulted in savings of more than 40% for students.

In response to this addition to Purdue’s campus, NACS requested a copy of the agreement between Amazon and Purdue under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (“APRA”), codified as Ind. Code § 5-14-3-1 et. seq. Purdue released only a redacted copy, stating that Amazon considered the omitted material to be protectable as trade secrets, which are defined under APRA as:


Indianapolis, Indiana – Indiana intellectual property lawyers for Precision Drone, LLC of Hamilton County, Indiana (“Precision”) commenced trade secret litigation in Hamilton County Superior Court alleging that Channel Masters, LLC of Wisconsin (“Channel”) breached its contract with Precision by improperly misappropriating and revealing trade secrets belonging to Precision.

Precision designs, engineers, manufactures and sells drones for use by farmers to monitor crops. It also develops and sells related software. Defendant Channel connects companies offering products to dealers of those products.

According to the complaint, in September 2014, Precision engaged Channel to sell the PaceSetter™ Drone to dealers of such products. To assist in Channel’s sales efforts, Precision provided Channel with equipment and training, some of which Precision contends is protected by Indiana trade secret law. As part of the sales agreement that the parties entered into, Precision states that Channel was prohibited from disclosing any of Precision’s confidential information without written authorization. The agreement also prohibited Channel from adversely interfering with Precision’s customers and prospective customers.

Plaintiff Precision alleges that, while Channel was working for Precision, it was also promoting and selling crop-imaging drones offered by AgriImage, a company that competes with Precision. Plaintiff also contends that Channel used Plaintiff’s images and training manual to demonstrate the competing AgriImage drones.

Precision claims copyright protection for the website that it uses to promote and advertise its products, as well as contending that at least one of its images was improperly displayed at a trade show by Channel, but the complaint listed no overt assertion of copyright infringement. The complaint, filed by Indiana intellectual property attorneys for Precision, instead alleges the following:

• Count I: Breach of Contract

• Count II: Misappropriation of Trade Secrets

Precision seeks judgment in its favor including damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Indiana copyright lawyers for Channel have removed the case to the Southern District of Indiana, arguing that such a removal is proper based both on federal question jurisdiction and diversity of citizenship.

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Fort Wayne, Indiana – In the matter of CCT Enterprises, LLC v. Kriss USA, Inc., trade secret lawyers for the parties agreed to a protective order and submitted it to the court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c). United States Magistrate Judge Susan Collins of the Northern District of Indiana denied the parties’ request for a protective order, holding that the proposed order was overly broad and, thus, invalid.

Magistrate Judge Collins first noted that Rule 26(c) allows the court to enter a protective order for good cause shown. For material to be protected, it “must give the holder an economic advantage and threaten a competitive injury…business information whose release harms the holder only because the information is embarrassing or reveals weaknesses does not qualify for trade secret protection.”

In the parties’ proposed order, no categories of material were provided to restrict what discovery materials would be treated as confidential. Instead, it allowed either party “in good faith” to deem any discovery materials to be confidential. Magistrate Judge Collins held that this was overbroad and that a protective order must extend only to “properly demarcated categor[ies] of legitimately confidential information.” Moreover, a mere assertion of harm to a litigant’s competitive position would not suffice but rather “the motion must explain how.” Consequently, the court held that because a showing of good cause had not been made, the proposed protective order could not issue.

The court also noted that the proposed order provided that it would continue to be binding after the conclusion of the litigation, thus implying that the court would retain jurisdiction after the lawsuit had been resolved. The court refused to enter an order that would have such an effect. Instead, it suggested that the parties should agree contractually among themselves for the return of sensitive documents.

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