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Heath Coffman is a shareholder at Brackett & Ellis, P.C. in Fort Worth, Texas.  His practice includes commercial litigation, intellectual property, collections, professional malpractice defense, fiduciary litigation, and appeals.  You can contact him directly at hcoffman@belaw.com.

The case of Mesquite Servs., LLC v. Standard E&S, LLC, No. 07-19-00440-CV, 2020 WL 5540189 (Tex. App.—Amarillo Sept. 15, 2020, no pet.), arose from a dispute over a non-compete agreement and examined the role that the former version of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) can play in a misappropriation of trade secrets claim under the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA). Ultimately, the Seventh Court of Appeals, Amarillo concluded that conclusory allegations, without more, did not meet the clear and specific evidence standard prescribed under the TCPA.
Continue Reading Conclusory Allegations Do Not Meet the Clear and Specific Evidence Standard under the TCPA

The case of KBIDC Investments, LLC v. Zuru Toys Inc., No. 05-19-00159-CV, 2020 WL 5988014 (Tex. App.—Dallas Oct. 9, 2020, no pet.), involved a dispute between two inventors who each created a system for filling and sealing recreational water balloons. Ultimately, the Court determined that the plaintiff in the case, KBIDC Investments (KBIDC), presented evidence that was too indefinite and uncertain to constitute circumstantial evidence of misappropriation of a trade secret under the Texas Uniform Trade Secret Act (TUTSA).
Continue Reading Vague Facts Insufficient to Support Trade Secrets Claim

The case of Infinity Sys., Inc. v. Gray Mech. Contractors, LLC, No. 01-19-00253-CV, 2020 WL 5637505 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Sept. 22, 2020, no pet.), a Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA) case, involved a motion to dismiss under the previous version of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA).  Ultimately, the First Court of Appeals, Houston determined that private communications between parties who communicate for personal, pecuniary gain are not protected by the TCPA.
Continue Reading The TCPA Does Not Apply to Purely Private Communications for Pecuniary Gain

Winning a trade secret misappropriation case at the summary judgment stage is difficult.  The case of C&M Oilfield Rentals, LLC v. Location Illuminator Techs., LLC, No. P:18-CV-039-DC, 2020 WL 7012008 (W.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2020) illustrates that point.  C&M Oilfield Rentals involved the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets used to construct an oil rig-mounted lighting system. Ultimately, the Court determined that it could not decide this case at the summary judgement stage because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether a trade secret existed and whether the defendant used an alleged trade secret.
Continue Reading The Difficulties of Winning a Trade Secrets Case at the Summary Judgment Stage

Title Source, Inc. v. HouseCanary, Inc., No. 04-19-00044-CV, 2020 WL 5027667 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Aug. 26, 2020, pet. granted) is a new case addressing the jury charge in Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA) cases.  In a previous post, I discussed the Casteel problem in the misappropriation instructions that resulted in reversal of this multi-million dollar judgment and the court’s evaluation of the evidence supporting the existence of the trade secrets. (For complete discussion of the facts, please see this previous blog post.  Since I wrote that post, the Court withdrew its earlier opinion and held, in addition to its previous holdings, that HouseCanary must also retry its breach of non-disclosure agreement claims if it elects on remand to retry its TUTSA claims because the claims were not separable from each other without unfairness to the parties.)
Continue Reading Even More Lessons from Title Source v. HouseCanary

The case of Pike v. Tex. EMC Management, LLC, 17-0557, 2020 WL 3405812 (Tex. June 19, 2020), revolved around the breakup of a limited partnership which was originally created to produce a new cement product. Ultimately, the Texas Supreme Court determined that the technology-supplying partner was not entitled to a permanent injunction for misappropriation of trade secrets under the Texas Uniform Trade Secret Act (TUTSA), reversing the decision of the appellate court.
Continue Reading Supreme Court of Texas Determines that a Request for Permanent Injunction Was Not Available When Plaintiff Also Offered Proof of Future Damages

Houston’s First District Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s dismissal of a misappropriation of trade secrets claim based on the Texas’s anti-SLAPP law the Texas Citizens Participation (TCPA) because both the right of association and the right of free speech require some showing of a public good. Nat’l Signs, Inc. v. Graff, 01-18-00662-CV, 2020 WL 2026321 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Apr. 28, 2020, no pet.).
Continue Reading Houston Court of Appeals Holds that the The Texas Citizen’s Participation Act Requires a Showing of Some Public Benefit

Recently, the First District Court of Appeals, Houston affirmed a take-nothing judgment against all parties. Malone v. PLH Group, Inc., 01-19-00016-CV, 2020 WL 1680058, at *1 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Apr. 7, 2020, pet. denied). The defendant in Malone Power Line Services, Inc. (PLS) constructed electrical transmission lines, built distribution systems, and provided construction services. The plaintiff Thomas Malone (Malone) entered into a three-year employment agreement with PLS in 2014 to serve as its Vice President of Operations. The employment agreement prohibited Malone from competing against PLS, soliciting PLS’s employees, and disclosing confidential information through restrictive covenants.
Continue Reading Proving the Element of “Use” for a Trade Secrets Claim Requires Either Harm to the Defendant or Enrichment of the Plaintiff

The Dallas Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial court’s decision to grant a motion to dismiss under the previous version of Texas’s anti-SLAPP statute the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). BusPatrol Am., LLC v. Am. Traffic Sols., Inc., 05-18-00920-CV, 2020 WL 1430357 (Tex. App.—Dallas Mar. 24, 2020, no pet.). The case revolved around a commercial dispute between two companies competing in the “smart bus technology market.”
Continue Reading Dallas Court of Appeals Reverses Trial Court on TCPA Because There Must Be a Showing of a Public Good

Houston’s First District Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s refusal to grant a dismissal of a misappropriation of trade secrets claim based on the previous version of Texas Citizen Participation Act (TCPA) because both the right of association and the right of free speech require some showing of a public good. Newpark Mats & Integrated Services, LLC v. Cahoon Enterprises, LLC, 01-19-00409-CV, 2020 WL 1467005, at *4 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Mar. 26, 2020, no pet.). The plaintiff-appellee in this case Cahoon Enterprises, LLC (Cahoon) is a small, family-owned business in North Dakota that provides roustabout services including the installation and removal of mats used under the sand boxes of oil fracking sites. The defendant-appellant Newpark manufactures the matting systems that Cahoon installs.
Continue Reading First District Court of Appeals Affirms Trial Court’s Decision to Reject a Motion to Dismiss under the TCPA