In a highly anticipated decision, the Federal Circuit recently issued an opinion denying a request made by TC Heartland LLC ("Heartland") for new restrictions on where patent suits can be filed. In Re TC Heartland LLC, No. 2016-105, slip. op. (Fed. Cir. April 29, 2016).
A trade secret in the United States, once protected under state common law and state statute, is now officially a matter of national importance. President Barack Obama signed into federal law on May 11, 2016 the bi-partisan Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which creates, among other things, a federal cause of action for the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce. See Pub. L. 114-153, 130 Stat. 376 (2016); see also 18 U.S.C. § 1836(c) ("The district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction of civil actions brought under this section."). "Trade secrets are the commercially valuable designs, processes, techniques, and other forms of information kept confidential by companies because, by virtue of their secrecy, they give companies an edge in a competitive marketplace." H.R. Rep. No. 114-529, at 2 (2016). Significantly, the DTSA provides ample remedies. It expressly permits relief for aggrieved trade secret owners in the form of compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and attorney's fees (in egregious cases). Furthermore, under both extreme and exigent circumstances, a plaintiff may, upon a sufficient factual showing, obtain an order seizing goods in commerce to protect against the unlawful dissemination of the trade secret, sales made in furtherance of the misappropriation, and the destruction of evidence.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently created a schism between the Circuits that may lead to the Supreme Court's intervention on an important issue: whether an employer may bar employees from bringing class action claims by requiring claims to be arbitrated. The 7th Circuit, in deciding that employers cannot do so, has diverged from the 5th Circuit, leaving a circuit split that the Supreme Court will now likely be compelled to resolve.