On May 11, 2021, former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Michael Bolsinger filed suit in Harris County (Texas) District Court, alleging the Houston Astros violated the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA) when they stole the Blue Jays’ catcher’s hand signals. The catcher uses these closely guarded hand signals to relay to the pitcher the next
The Supreme Court Weighs In: Does the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Apply When a Person Permitted to Access Computer Files Uses Them for a Prohibited Purpose?
On November 30, 2020, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Van Buren v. United States, which may resolve a circuit split on the extent to which the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) covers an employee’s alleged misappropriation of the employer’s information. Enacted in 1986, the CFAA imposes criminal penalties on…
Chinese Self-Driving Car Company Must Make Its Source Code Available in Lawsuit Against Tesla but Only Through a Neutral Examiner
Computer forensic information often becomes an issue in trade secret cases, as computer artifacts or other electronic information (such as on external hard drives, cell phones, etc.) can sometimes prove or disprove whether a person accessed, used, transferred, or destroyed trade secret material. If the parties or the judge determines that the computer forensic information is relevant, the next key question is how much needs to be exchanged and what limitations will be in place. The producing party often will argue that computers include numerous irrelevant files and artifacts, privileged communications, and private information that should not be subject to discovery. One middle ground is to use a neutral examiner, in which the electronic data is never handed directly to the opposing party. Instead, a neutral computer expert will field requests and/or create reports of the pertinent data.
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CleanFish, LLC v. Sims
CleanFish LLC, a seafood wholesaler and importer, faced an early setback in its case against its founder who allegedly started a competing company by using CleanFish’s confidential customer lists and information. CleanFish alleged state and federal trade secret misappropriation claims and breach of contract based on confidentiality and proprietary-rights agreements.
In a March 17, 2020 ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed CleanFish’s trade secret claims because it failed to identify any trade secret with sufficient particularity. CleanFish’s general descriptions of “customer lists, customer purchasing data, customer sales figures[,] and other related customer purchasing analysis and trends” were too broad and vague, making them indistinguishable from matters of general knowledge in the seafood-distribution business. On the other hand, the court allowed that the breach-of-contract claim could proceed because the contracts did not require CleanFish to allege a defined trade secret. (CleanFish has since amended its complaint, and defendants moved to dismiss).
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