Non-Disclosure Agreements

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.

On June 2, 2019, Governor Abbott signed a bill to change that.
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If you have been reading this blog, you know that I have frequently commented on the use of Texas’s anti-SLAPP statute the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) to defeat a Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA) claim. Most of the early cases involved defendants using the TCPA to dismiss a plaintiff’s TUTSA claim. Universal Plant Services, Inc. v. Dresser-Rand Group, Inc., No. 01-17-00555-CV, 2018 WL 6695813 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 20, 2018, no pet.) involves a plaintiff overcoming defendants’ TCPA motions.
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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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In Thoroughbred Ventures, LLC v. Disman, No. 4:18-CV-00318, 2018 WL 3752852 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 8, 2018), plaintiff Thoroughbred Ventures sued its former manager Disman, alleging that Disman breached his employment agreement, which provided that all client contact and background information belonged to Thoroughbred and constituted “Confidential Information” and a trade secret of Thoroughbred.
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Eagle Oil & Gas Co. v. Shale Exploration, LLC, 549 S.W.3d 256 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2018, pet., pet. dismissed) involves the familiar situation where a plaintiff sues for both breach of a confidentiality agreement and for misappropriation of trade secrets. Defendant asserted that plaintiff was limited to a breach of contract claim because the misappropriation claim was barred by the economic loss rule, which bars a recovery in tort for economic losses caused by a breach of contract if the losses are due to the failure to fulfill a contractual obligation.
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In my earlier posts, I explored the complicated definition of “misappropriation” under the Texas Uniform Trade Secret Act (TUTSA).  Litigants and courts often fail to understand all the ways a trade secret may be misappropriated.  In this post, I explore the fourth of six alternative paths to liability under TUTSA:
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Although Texas courts have loosened the restrictions on the enforceability of certain employee agreements over the past two decades, Texas law still requires employee agreements to be supported by adequate consideration—i.e., mutual, non-illusory promises between employee and employer.  The recent case of Eurecat US, Inc. v. Marklund, No. 14-15-00418-CV, 2017 WL 2367545 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] May 31, 2017, no pet. h.) illustrates what is not adequate consideration.
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Last February, I had the privilege of speaking at the State Bar of Texas’s Intellectual Property Law Workshop.  This year’s theme was IP Issues with Technology Startups, and my speech was Protecting your Startup Client’s Intellectual Property and Customer Relationships: The Intersection of Trade Secrets, Confidentiality Agreements, and Covenants Not to Compete.  As a springboard for my speech, I discussed the pilot episode of Silicon Valley, which, as others have pointed out, has all sort of intellectual property issues to explore. 
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In May 2016, the federal government enacted the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which provides federal civil cause of action for trade secrets misappropriation.  It is similar to the state-based Uniform Trade Secret Act.  One important difference, though, is the DTSA’s notice provision for non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).  With the enactment of DTSA, all NDAs entered into or amended after May 11, 2016 are expected to provide notice of certain trade secret disclosure immunities to employees, contractors, or consultants. 
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In my December 11, 2016 post, I explained how the Southern District of Texas rejected the argument that the receipt of trade secrets pursuant to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is not a defense to a Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act claim.  The Western District of Texas, however, takes the opposite position in Education Management Services v. Cadero, No. SA-14-CA-587, 2014 WL 12586781, (W.D. Tex. Nov. 18, 2014), reconsideration denied, No. SA-14-CA-587, 2014 WL 12586782 (W.D. Tex. Dec. 23, 2014). 
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