On May 11, 2016, President Obama signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) into law. President Obama publicly supported this legislation and efforts generally directed to strengthen trade secret protections within the U.S. economy. As we previously reported on May 3, 2016 and November 24, 2015, trade secret misappropriation was formerly treated exclusively as a matter of state law, governed by varied versions of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act as enacted in most states. A lack of uniform enactment of this Act resulted in differences in the application of the law between states, which presented difficulties for trade secret owners seeking to enforce their rights in the general commerce.
On April 27, 2016, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) passed the House of Representatives with a 410-2 vote. The two no votes were from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. Thomas Massey (R-KY). Earlier this month, on April 4, the Senate passed the DTSA by a unanimous vote of 87-0. Now, the DTSA heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
Last month, judges from the European Court of Justice, the European Union’s top court, issued a judgment striking down a 15-year old agreement, known as the Safe Harbor framework, which allowed American and European businesses to freely move personal data between the two regions. This ruling impacts nearly 4,000 businesses that currently rely on Safe Harbor framework to transfer data between the U.S. and Europe and requires all businesses to revaluate their compliance with Europeans standards.
Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015 Would Create a Federal Private Right of Action for the Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
On July 29, 2015, with bipartisan support, Congressional leaders in both the House and the Senate introduced identical bills, HR 3326 and S. 1890, respectively, entitled, the “Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015” (“DTSA 2015”). The proposed legislation attempts to authorize a private civil action in federal court for the misappropriation of a trade secret that is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce. Additionally, the proposed legislations seeks to (a) create a uniform standard for trade secret misappropriation; (b) provide parties pathways to injunctive relief and compensatory damages; and (c) create remedies for trade secret misappropriation that are similar to other violations of intellectual property rights, for example, including exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees available in the event of willful and malicious misappropriation of a trade secret. An interesting feature of the DTSA 2015 is the availability of an ex parte seizure order for plaintiffs fearful of the dissemination of their trade secret(s). The proposed ex parte seizure allows for the government to seize property necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret prior to giving notice of the lawsuit to the defendant.
While the winter holidays are a time for spending and good cheer, the 2013 holiday season was one that continues to be costly for Target. On December 19, 2013, Target publicly announced that computer hackers had stolen data, including credit card payment information, from millions of Target shoppers. In January 2014, Gibbons P.C., in light of the Target data breach, discussed the ramifications of delay in notifying consumers, whether the delay was intentional or as a result of compliance with law enforcement requests. Banks and credit unions, which had issued credit cards affected by the breach, were forced to reimburse Target customers in some cases and reissue millions of cards, brought a class action lawsuit against Target.
In Peters v. St. Joseph Servs. Corp., the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas recently dismissed a class action complaint seeking damages arising out of a data incursion. The Court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of standing without leave to amend, while granting the plaintiff 30 days to raise her state and common law claims in state court.
On September 17, 2014, the Second Circuit issued its long awaited decision in Gucci America, Inc. et. al. v. Li et. al., 2014 WL 4629049 (Appeal Nos. 11-3934 & 12-4557). In its decision, the Court vacated and remanded an August 2011 order compelling nonparty Bank of China (BOC) to comply with a document subpoena and asset freeze provision in an injunction and a May 2012 order denying the bank’s motion to reconsider. The court also reversed a November 2012 decision holding the bank in contempt for non-compliance with the court’s August 2011 order and imposing civil penalties.
Gone, but Not Forgotten: How the European Union Court of Justice Misremembered the Fundamental Purpose of Search Engines
The European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on May 13, 2014 that Google must purge links to personal data appearing on web pages published by third parties if the person who is the subject of that data objects that it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which [the data] were processed and in light of the time that has elapsed.” Google and other industry voices have already identified numerous concerns with the Court’s ruling, notably the unknown costs and potential disputes over relevancy and staleness of data that could arise as search engines seek to comply with the ruling.
While most trade secrets cases are litigated in civil court, one former Microsoft employee learned the hard way that the theft of trade secrets is also a federal crime. Alex A. Kibkalo, a former Microsoft Corp. employee, was being prosecuted for leaking valuable company trade secrets to a blogger for publication. On March 31, 2014, Kibkalo’s counsel and the prosecution advised a district court judge in Washington that the government and Kibkalo had reached a plea agreement. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Kibkalo will spend three months in federal prison and pay Microsoft Corp. restitution of $22,500.
In their latest effort to curb potential consumer privacy abuses, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy are challenging the potential misuse of data about WhatsApp users’ data as a result of WhatsApp’s acquisition by Facebook for $16 billion. WhatsApp is a popular App that allows users to send messages without the regular cost associated with SMS text messaging. According to the complaint, the company “processes over 10 billion messages per day from approximately 450 million users.”