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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.

If you have been following my blog, you know that Texas’s anti-slapp statute—the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA)—frequently applies to commercial litigation claims. McDonald Oilfield Operations, LLC v. 3B Inspection, LLC, No. 01-18-00118-CV, 2018 WL 6377432 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 6, 2018, no pet. h.) is another example of the use of the TCPA as a defense to a commercial litigation suit. In McDonald Oilfield Operations, plaintiff 3B Inspection brought claims a defamation, business disparagement, and tortious interference with contract after defendant McDonald Oilfield Operations, a competitor in the pipeline monitoring business, allegedly told one of 3B’s customers that 3B was “not a real company” and that McDonald Oilfield had suspended some 3B’s employees’ qualifications. (Three of 3B’s employees had worked for McDonald Oilfield as independent contractors and had received their credentials through McDonald Oilfield. McDonald Oilfield asserted claims that these employees had misappropriated trade secrets and stolen company property.)
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The Eastern District of Virginia has issued multiple opinions addressing the Texas Uniform Trade Secret (TUTSA) in Steves & Sons, Inc. v. JELD-WEN, Inc., No. 3:16CV545, 2018 WL 6272893 (E.D. Va. Nov. 30, 2018). Its latest opinion addressed whether plaintiff was entitled to both reasonable royalty damages and a permanent injunction following trial. Defendant argued that allowing both would constitute an impermissible double recovery. Surprisingly, the Court agreed.

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As previously mentioned in this blog, one of the biggest issues in trade secrets litigation in Texas is the application of the state’s anti-SLAAP statute the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) to claims under the Texas Uniform Trade Secret Act (TUTSA).  Because of the broad language of the TCPA, defendants can file a TCPA motion to dismiss in almost any trade secrets case.  Texas Representative Jeff Leach, however, has filed a bill to change that.  
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TexasBarCLE‘s 32nd Annual Advanced Intellectual Property Law seminar is February 27-March 1, 2019.  There are three great days of CLE:

I will be presenting on the 2018 Trade Secrets Update on day 2. 
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In Steves & Sons, Inc. v. JELD-WEN, Inc., No. 3:16-CV-545, 2018 WL 2172502 (E.D. Va. May 10, 2018), the Eastern District of Virginia provides an in-depth look at unjust enrichment and reasonable royalty damages under both the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA).
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Damages for misappropriation of trade secrets are generally understood as (1) lost profits, (2) defendant’s profits, or (3) a reasonable royalty. These are damages traditionally sought against a competitor. But that does not mean that a departing employee who takes trade secrets to a competitor is immune from a damage award.
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Over the course of several cases, Judge Mazzant from the Eastern District of Texas has emphasized the circumstantial nature of the evidence used to establish misappropriation of trade secrets. SPBS, Inc. v. Mobley, No. 4:18-CV-00391, 2018 WL 4185522, (E.D. Tex. Aug. 31, 2018) is a good example of the court relying on such circumstantial evidence to issue an injunction against a former employee accused of taking trade secrets.

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One of the most difficult things in prosecuting a trade secret case is determining how to define the trade secrets that have been misappropriated. If a plaintiff defines the trade secrets too narrowly, it runs the risk of failing to stop the misappropriation. However, if a plaintiff uses a definition of trade secrets that is based on broad or generic terms, then the plaintiff runs the risk that its requested injunctive relief will be denied.
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The Texas Uniform Trade Secret Act (TUTSA) allows for injunctive relief based on both “actual” and “threatened” disclosure of trade secrets. One the major unresolved issues of TUTSA, though, is the meaning of “threatened” disclosure. The Eastern District of Texas briefly addresses this meaning in AHS Staffing, LLC v. Quest Staffing Grp., Inc., No. 4:18-CV-00402, 2018 WL 3870067 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 15, 2018).
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