Securing trade secret protection during California litigation

A U.S. Department of Commerce report estimated that more than 27 million American workers were employed in “IP-intensive industries” in 2010. Another nearly 13 million jobs were connected to the industries indirectly. The figures highlight the dependency U.S. businesses have on a 40 million member work force to keep trade secrets confidential.

Trade secrets’ vulnerability is alive and well, even when you have full confidence in a trusted staff. After all, times and work situations change.

What if a competitor lures away a top executive or a group of highly-skilled employees? What if some of your employees decide they’d like to start their own companies, competing with what you do? Technology makes it easy for secrets of your operation to follow them.

The California Uniform Trade Secrets Act is legal protection for company data. To make the legislation useful, you must identify what trade secrets you have, what makes them valuable and make a “reasonable” effort to shield them. What’s sacred? For many companies, trade secrets include customer information, sales figures, business plans and methods of operation. The list can be much longer.

A trade secrets case is underway against the Mountain View, California, company Pure Storage, a flash-storage start-up. The plaintiff is EMC, a competitor claiming Pure Storage raided its staff and confidential business information.

The complaint alleges more than 40 former EMC employees either funded or went to work for the start-up since 2011, taking the virtual equivalent of reams of sensitive information with them. The lawsuit also said some ex-workers violated job contracts by talking former EMC colleagues into join them. EMC also charges Pure Storage management for knowing about it.

Intellectual property attorneys help businesses safeguard trade secrets during litigation. Judges can issue injunctive relief – temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions – to force defendants to act or stop specific actions until evidence is reviewed or a trial is completed.

Source: pcworld.com, “EMC sues startup for stealing trade secrets through staff hires” John Ribeiro, Nov. 05, 2013