Commercial · Fun/Interesting · Trade Secret

In Trial Today

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – There are four civil cases in trial in San Francisco Superior Court this Wednesday morning.

Three of the cases are personal injury cases. In a premises liability case, a woman alleges a BART train operator negligently closed the doors on her. In the second case, a pedestrian alleges defendant owned a vehicle that struck her in a Safeway parking lot. Finally, the third case is a hotly disputed products liability case in which a maintenance worker alleges that Monsanto failed to warn him that an herbicide chemical caused his cancer.

The fourth case is a commercial dispute in which plaintiff Ashbury Heights Capital, LLC alleges in-part that it developed a unique method for analyzing stock market data and predicting stock movements. Ashbury goes on to allege that it licensed its product to defendant FactSet Research Systems, Inc., formerly Revere Data, LLC, who used it but refused to pay agreed-upon commissions/royalties. Ashbury also claims Revere destroyed critical evidence in the case, commonly known as spoliation. Defendant FactSet says, in part, that plaintiff’s claims arise from an oral discussion that is disputed. The case is in Judge Ulmer’s courtroom and is set for closing arguments today.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true. In most cases, the allegations are disputed.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
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Commercial · Trade Secret

Oakland Coffee Companies Fight; Blue Bottle Named in RICO Action

U.S.D.C. Nor. Cal. – A 59 page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California tells the tale of a coffee scandal involving famed Blue Bottle Coffee. Plaintiff Mocha Mill, an Oakland company, alleges that its CEO conspired with competitor Port of Mokha to steal Mocha Mill’s product and distribution relationships.

According to the complaint, Mocha Mill spent thousands of dollars sending its CEO on extended educational trips around the world, forming relationships with Yemeni farmers and refining the processes to make Yemeni coffee. Mocha Mill alleges these efforts were successful in creating a new buzz for the product.

As soon as the CEO realized that they were on the right track, it is alleged that he shopped it for himself, including conspiring with Port of Mokha and distributor Blue Bottle, to convince unwitting Mocha Mill investors that their product had no value.

This will be an interesting case for Judge Laurel Beeler, one of the better judges on the N.D.Cal. roster.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Trade Secret

In Trial: Lawyers Battle Over Client… Information

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – According to defendant’s trial brief, a Los Angeles firm, SwedelsonGottlieb, sent an associate, William Noland, to open an office in San Francisco, which he did successfully. When the associate did not make partner, he went off on his own and got sued by his former employer out of “anger and spite.” According to the Complaint, Mr. Noland solicited SwedelsonGottlieb’s clients to go with him before and after his departure and took/used proprietary client data in the process.

Litigation is about storytelling as much as anything else. The stories told in almost every trade secret case of this type are the same. The defendant says the employer is just trying to bury their startup with attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiff claims legitimate trade secret information existed and was misused.

In many instances, both stories are true. Often plaintiffs are disgruntled and looking for revenge. Equally as often, departing employees do not get good advice, or do not listen to it, and use more information than they should. Emotion, and specifically anxiety, drives the parties to costly outcomes.

Per defendant’s brief, Mr. Noland had incurred $500,000 in legal fees and costs, and trial obviously had not yet begun.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Trade Secret

Ventek Sues California Parks Company Alleging Employee/Trade Secret Theft

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The complaint alleges that: the two companies entered into an agreement to join forces and bid on a National Park Service contract; the agreement prohibited taking proprietary information and/or soliciting employees; and defendant did both.

Key to the case will be whether there were trade secrets, and second whether they were incorporated into the defendants’ work product. That will likely determine whether the contractual terms are enforced.

While everyone in California seems to know that non-compete clauses are generally unenforceable, what is not common knowledge is that that non-solicitation clauses are hard to enforce as well. The California Supreme Court made clear in a case called Edwards v. Arthur Andersen that employee mobility is critical. The basic rule is: employers can protect trade secrets but not via contractual clauses that make it impossible for employees to work and ply their trade.

The other interesting aspect of the case is that it is filed in federal court. Until recently, trade secret cases were litigated in state court. President Obama signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. § 1836) in 2016, making federal court an option.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Commercial · Investment · Tech · Trade Secret

Company Sues LG for Allegedly Stealing Tech in Due Diligence Process, and Copying It

SAN JOSE, CA – Electronics giant LG is being sued by Alta Devices, Inc. In the suit, plaintiff alleges LG made a disingenuous offer to invest in plaintiff’s business only to steal plaintiff’s trade secrets and develop the technology on its own.

Specifically, the complaint alleges LG designed to offer to participate in plaintiff’s Series D financing round for the sole purpose of, in the due diligence period for that investment, steal plaintiff’s technology and remake it themselves, every small tech companies worst nightmare.

The case may hinge on the language in the NDA and whether LG can prove that it already had the technology before it got a peak at plaintiff’s work in the due diligence process.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.