It is challenging for plaintiffs to go to court — a public forum — to resolve private disputes. Howard J. Bashman’s blog, How Appealing, recently noted a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decision (Posner, J.) touching on the challenges of the confidentiality of settlement agreements, in particular. Minnesota Litigator has previously highlighted the irony of compounding the injury of defamation by suing on it (particularly, of course, when the plaintiff loses the claim).
Making out a complaint for theft of trade secrets has an obvious built-in Catch-22 as well. On the one hand, it cannot be enough to plead, “Defendant took my trade secret,” and, on the other hand, one cannot require the victim of a trade secret theft to blab “the secret” in open court as a prerequisite for bringing a claim to court.
U.S. District Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery (D. Minn.) recently held that TE Connectivity Networks, Inc. and its lawyers from Faegre Baker Daniels pleaded enough.
While TE is somewhat vague about what trade secrets and confidential information was taken by ASB, when the allegations are viewed as a whole, the Court finds more than a mere possibility of misconduct. TE’s allegations are not generalized or conclusory. TE is specific about which of its products have trade secrets, naming the EPON, CWDM, and Fiber Demarc Box products. As to those products, TE identifies its trade secrets as “technical specifications, design parameters, performance criteria, testing data, . . .” and so forth. …. TE alleges it designed these products to particular specifications for clients, and that ASB did not sell these products until after it had hired TE…employees. ASB’s new hires had worked on the development of these products at TE, were hired in positions at ASB with the same or similar job titles, and ASB soon after began selling EPON, CWDM, and Fiber Demarc Box products to TE customers. For example, ASB marketed an EPON product to at least one current TE customer, who TE alleges decided to buy that product from ASB. Further, ASB marketed a CWDM device to at least one TE customer to meet particular specifications. Although the clients and specifications are not named, the allegations are far from the conclusory allegations found in [other cases in which courts granted motions to dismiss trade secret claims for pleading deficiency].