Trade Secret and Employee Mobility
Protecting clients’ intellectual property in complex matters
Our practice handles both high-stakes litigation and day-to-day counseling to help clients protect their trade secrets from disclosure, protect themselves from accusations of misappropriation, onboard employees moving between competitors, and safeguard intellectual property during merger and acquisition negotiations, due diligence efforts, and joint venture talks.
We are solution focused, and some of our most successful representations are necessarily confidential, where, for example, we are able to guide matters to resolution outside the courtroom or in confidential arbitration. At the same time, we frequently engage in vigorous, public representations for our clients in trade secret and employee mobility matters. Our deep bench of experienced trade secret litigators is ready to quickly deploy for temporary injunctions, preliminary injunctions and trials.
We offer a wide range of services that include advising on or handling litigation related to:
We work with clients in a broad spectrum of industries such as financial services, technology, retail, entertainment, pharmaceuticals, higher education and more. Our client list includes:
- Air Lease Corp.
- DoubleLine Capital
- Abbott Laboratories
- Applied Materials
- Fortress Investment Group
Our team of experienced attorneys includes:
Our representations include:
- Applied Materials, in a federal criminal case and a civil lawsuit against former Applied Materials executives who conspired to misappropriate Applied trade secrets and two companies started by one of the executives. In the civil case, we successfully argued on appeal that the matter should move forward as a unified proceeding and resisted efforts to compel it to arbitration.
- Intel Corporation, in two separate actions filed in federal court against former employees who took Intel's confidential and trade secret information. We obtained temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions in both matters, as well as expedited discovery, to protect against further dissemination of the information and compel the return of all misappropriated materials.
- Amgen, in bringing a trade secret action in state court against a competitor firm and a former Amgen executive for misappropriating trade secrets related to Amgen’s groundbreaking oncology drug Neulasta®. After defeating summary judgment, we achieved a favorable settlement, including a multi-year royalty, the day before opening arguments in a lengthy jury trial.
- Ten-X, an online real estate marketplace, in obtaining a preliminary injunction and then later a cash settlement, a public apology, and certain ongoing restrictions in its lawsuit against Commercial Real Estate Exchange (CREXi) and its CEO in a litigation alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets.
- Fortress Investment Group, in obtaining a complete defense verdict in a five-week bench trial in a lawsuit filed by a life settlement investment fund seeking more than $200 million in damages and bringing claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, unfair competition and breach of contract.
- Air Lease Corporation in defending against and resolving allegations of trade secret theft, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, and unfair competition relating to the formation of the company by Steven Udvar-Hazy after he retired from International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC).
- ABC in successfully defeating an injunction sought by CBS which aimed to shut down ABC’s reality show “The Glass House” based on allegations that former CBS employees who worked on “The Big Brother” misappropriated “trade secrets” related to reality show programming and used those secrets in producing “The Glass House.” CBS ultimately dismissed the case with prejudice.
- Abbott Laboratories in pursuing lawsuits against three former employees for downloading confidential documents upon their departure and for breach of non-solicitation agreements.
- Snap, Inc., against charges it infringed the patents of a social mapping application and misappropriated alleged trade secrets by allegedly accessing a beta test of the app.
- Checkr, and its subsidiary Hone Data LLC, in settling trade secret litigation after we discovered that the allegedly infringed trade secret, a compilation of codes, was publicly available on the internet.
- Applied Materials, in defeating a requested temporary restraining order against an executive who is working for Applied Materials in South Korea.
- A high-level technology executive, in multi-forum litigation concerning the executive’s move to a California employer from a competing, out-of-state firm.
- Carrington Mortgage Services and an executive in settling litigation alleging that Carrington and the executive engaged in improper encouragement of Freedom Mortgage Company employees to join Carrington en masse, allegedly inducing the theft of trade secrets and aiding and abetting breaches of employee non-solicitation agreements.
- DoubleLine Capital LP and certain of its founders, including CEO Jeffrey Gundlach, in winning a $66.7 million jury verdict in favor of Gundlach against his former employer, Trust Co. of the West (TCW), on his cross-complaint. TCW originally brought suit against Mr. Gundlach and DoubleLine Capital, claiming breach of fiduciary duty, trade secret theft and tortious interference in connection with a large-scale departure of employees to DoubleLine Capital after Mr. Gundlach was fired. The jury awarded no damages on TCW's complaint against DoubleLine Capital and the individual defendants.
Checkr: Dismissing trade secret litigation after discovering that alleged secrets were public
Munger, Tolles & Olson defended Checkr, Inc., the leading tech company in the background check industry, and Checkr’s subsidiary, Hone Data LLC, against allegations of trade secrets theft, unfair competition, breach of contract and other claims.
Checkr and Hone were sued by vendor Safety Holdings, Inc., doing business as SambaSafety, and American Driving Records, Inc. The plaintiffs alleged that Checkr and Hone breached their subscriber agreements and used alleged SambaSafety trade secrets to develop a competing platform for pulling motor vehicle records.
After discovering that the only sufficiently identified purported trade secret in the complaint – a compilation of codes – was publicly available on the internet, we filed a motion to dismiss. The parties reached a confidential settlement that resulted in dismissal of the case in February 2021.
Snap: Fighting a claim of stolen trade secrets from a defunct startup
Munger, Tolles & Olson is lead counsel for Snap and its French subsidiary Zenly in defending against trade secret and patent litigation brought in federal court in Delaware in January 2020 by now-defunct social mapping application You Map. You Map alleges that Snap misappropriated the trade secrets in You Map’s social mapping application through Zenly S.A.S., by signing up to beta test the application prior to launch and then allegedly incorporating You Map’s so-called “trade secret” zooming, heat map, MapMoji and other purported trade secrets into Snap’s highly successful SnapMap application. You Map also added patent infringement allegations in an amended complaint.
In February 2021, partner Carolyn Hoecker Luedtke led a Munger, Tolles & Olson team in winning a motion to dismiss the original complaint, after which You Map amended the complaint. Snap filed a second motion to dismiss. In July 2021, Magistrate Judge Hall recommended dismissing the suit against the French Zenly defendants but recommended against dismissing the trade secret claims against Snap, a recommendation adopted in September 2022 by Chief US. District Judge Connolly.
Upon reading the Munger team’s 2021 second motion to dismiss, You Map agreed its newly added patent claims were flawed and conceded the motion to dismiss on those claims, agreeing to amend them to try to cure the defects upon the resolution of the motion to dismiss on all other issues. You Map will ultimately amend its patent claims after a decision on Snap’s inter partes review (IPR) petition that was instituted in September 2022 on the patents at issue in the litigation.