Robert Billings

Trade Secret Misappropriation Claim Dismissed Where Plaintiff Failed to Prove Damage

An element of a claim of trade secret misappropriation is that the theft has caused damage, a lesson reinforced by the defendant’s successful motion for summary judgment in 3PD, Inc. v. U.S. Transport Corp., Case No.: GJH-13-2438 (D. Md. July 9, 2015). Even if trade secrets were wrongly taken by the defendant, the plaintiff failed to demonstrate actual damages under the Maryland Uniform Trade Secret Act (“MUTSA”). The plaintiff, 3PD, Inc., is a logistical support company with a nationwide customer data base comprised largely of major consumer product retailers. Rose was a manager in charge of supervising and organizing all of 3PD’s centralized customer dispatching and routing for Lowe’s Home Centers. Rose gave 3PD 12 days’ notice of his resignation to take a position with the defendant, one of 3PD’s competitors. During that time, Rose forwarded “to his personal e-mail account confidential 3PD information that 3PD contends was trade secret.” That information included price and task sheets, budgets, forecasts, meeting notes, scheduling methods, and contact information. 3PD terminated Rose upon discovering his activities. Without analyzing whether the information that Rose downloaded to his personal e-mail account was included trade secrets, the court concluded that 3PD did not adequately demonstrate it… Read More »Trade Secret Misappropriation Claim Dismissed Where Plaintiff Failed to Prove Damage

Internal Website Can Be a Trade Secret

Allegations that a customer database and an inter-office call center website were trade secrets survived a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss in Capital Meats, Inc. v. The Meat Shoppe, LLC, Civil No. JFM-15-212 (D. Md. July 9, 2015). The court ruled that the plaintiff had stated a plausible claim under the Maryland Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“MUTSA”), thus providing a useful illustration of how even information widely shared within a company can be protected as a trade secret. The plaintiff, Capital Meats, Inc. (“CMI”), maintains a customer data base and call center website, both of which are used to track inventory, sales, customer payment processing, and outstanding balances owed by the retailers purchasing CMI’s frozen meat. CMI’s auditor resigned and, with as dozens of retail dealers, formed The Meat Shoppe, a door-to-door seller of frozen meat. CMI’s complaint alleged that the defendants “directly obtained the information contained in the Database and Call Center Website through ‘improper means,’” and then distributed “that information to former Retail Dealers who joined The Meat Shoppe.” CMI further alleged that it lost significant business due to the defendants using the information to their competitive advantage. The defendants moved to dismiss the count of violating the… Read More »Internal Website Can Be a Trade Secret

PTAB Finds Patent Claims Directed to Organizing Digital Images Patent-Ineligible in CBM Review

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) has held all claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,260,587 patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101, and the rubric of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank.  Bank of America, NA v. Intellectual Ventures II LLC, Case CBM2014-00033 (PTAB May 18, 2015). The claims of the ’587 patent are directed to organizing and searching digital images. According to the ’587 patent, a customer categorizes a plurality of hard copy prints, e.g., personal photographs, and associates a pre-ordered, machine readable instruction form to each category. Thereafter, a service provider digitally scans the plurality of prints and instruction forms while maintaining the respective category, and stores the digital image files with the associated category onto a digital storage medium. Per a customer order, the service provider produces a product incorporating images from one or more categories as requested. The patent owner argued that the claims were not directed to an abstract idea because the claims purportedly do not “fall within any of the categories of abstract ideas enumerated by the Supreme Court.” Additionally, the patent owner argued that the conceptual method for organizing digital images requires a machine because digitizing and organizing hard copy prints via an instruction… Read More »PTAB Finds Patent Claims Directed to Organizing Digital Images Patent-Ineligible in CBM Review

PTAB Invalidates Financial Administration Patent Claims in CBM Review

Patent claims directed to “administration of financial accounts” are not patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101, held the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) during a Covered Business Method (“CBM”) post-grant review. The final written decision from the PTAB found all claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,083,137 unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. PNC Financial Services, Case CBM2014-00028 (PTAB May 18, 2015). The ’137 patent claims systems and methods for administration of financial accounts for users of credit cards, debit cards or other facilities. A profile stored in a database is keyed to a user’s identity where the user can establish pre-set spending limits on various user-selected categories and be notified of the spending. The patent owner was not able to establish that the claims relate to a “technological invention.” The PTAB credited the testimony of the petitioner’s expert witness as evidence that the ‘137 patent claims are directed to an abstract idea. Specifically, the claims on their face are “drawn to creating a budget, which is an abstract idea relating to a fundamental economic practice.” Additionally, the PTAB stated that the claims are “directed to mental steps that can be performed by a human.”… Read More »PTAB Invalidates Financial Administration Patent Claims in CBM Review