Welcome to The Trade Secret Litigator.
Last year, a lawyer attending a seminar that I was presenting asked me what websites she could follow to stay current on developments in the area of trade secrets and non-compete law. It occurred to me that while there has been a tremendous growth in the number of blogs by lawyers, there had not been a corresponding growth in the number of blogs dedicated to the commercial, practical and legal issues arising out of trade secret law and the law of non-competes. That is not to say there are not excellent blogs that are out there that cover trade secrets issues, but I believe that this area remains under-represented, particularly given the dramatic growth of trade secret law.
About 10 years ago, my practice began to increasingly consist of TROs, injunctions, and other forms of emergency litigation. As I did more of this work, trade secret and covenant not to compete cases came to dominate my practice. Since the beginning of the economic downturn in late 2007, I sensed that companies were filing more trade secret cases and that coverage of them by the mainstream media such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and others had increased significantly. The infamous Mattel/Bratz dispute, the Starwood/Hilton case, the EMC/Donatelli dispute and the Hewlett Packard/Hurd case have all received significant media attention and have reinforced that there is indeed something going on here.
David Almeling’s two outstanding empirical analyses on the growth of trade secrets litigation published in 2009 and 2010 in the Gonzaga Law Journal clinched it for me. For anyone seriously practicing law in this space, these two articles are required reading. The growth in my practice and the increasing interest and growth in this area of the law were confirmed by these groundbreaking articles by David and his colleagues.
This growth has coinceded with certain economic realities. First, a brutal economy has served to further fray the relationship between employer and employee. Desperate people do desperate things. As 93% of the disputes analyzed by one of the Almeling article arose out of relationships where the parties knew each other, the deterioration of this relationship presents kindling for trade secret disputes. Second, the increasing mobility of employees has created more flashpoints for disputes over non-competes and similar agreements. Third, the ongoing developments in mobile device technology that allow for the compressing and movement of tremendous amounts of information present greater opportunities for unscrupulous actor. Finally, as companies scale back and attempt to be more efficient in their intellectual property budgets, many are reacquainting themselves with the benefits of using trade secret law, rather than its more expensive relation, patent law, to protect their intellectual property (more to follow on this possible trend). For these and other reasons, I believe that this area of the law is experiencing a true renaissance.
So why I am writing this blog? The simple answer is I enjoy what I do and I enjoy sharing my experiences with others. Of course, I also hope this blog becomes a resource for and kindles a dialogue among others truly interested in this area of the law. As a result, in addition to posts about recent and noteworthy legal decisions, this blog will also speak to practical litigation issues that frequently accompany trade secret litigation, consider larger societal and technological trends that affect this area, and, finally and perhaps most importantly, speak to administrative and human resources issues that also arise in this context and that need to be considered to protect trade secrets.
Having been on both sides of the aisle, representing plaintiffs as well as defendants, I will attempt to cover both sides of the debate on issues as they arise in this area; however, I’ll admit in advance that since my bias is toward the side of the plaintiff, my posts will likely ultimately reflect that perspective.
Again, welcome aboard!