Trade secret litigation is different than other types of intellectual property litigation in that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not protect trade secrets. Advances in technology are causing an increase in data and modeling use as trade secrets. This is particularly true in the energy industry, as companies develop new ways to find, extract, and process natural resources. With the rise of trade secrets litigation, some parties are trying to use their Fifth Amendment rights to prevent certain information from coming to light, which is complicating trade secret issues.
Superior Energy Services Inc. was just awarded $72 million from former officers for breach of fiduciary and trade secret violations. The case is Superior Energy Services Inc et al. v. Christopher J. Russo et al., case number 2016- 24818, in the 295th District Court of Harris County, Texas. While this is not necessarily unusual, the officers asserted their Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate themselves in response to a discovery request. Superior Energy requested over 1,500 documents from the officers and an appeals panel ruled the Fifth Amendment could not be used with regard to documents for corporate entities for which the officers worked.
A decision holding the Fifth Amendment does not cover documents for corporate entities also touches on a very important aspect of trade secret litigation: criminality. There are both state and federal laws regarding the theft of trade secrets that can result in criminal charges; and, depending on how the trade secrets are used, additional criminal charges could apply. Introducing criminality into trade secret disputes often complicates the matters at hand. Individuals often try strategies like invoking the Fifth Amendment to prevent the discovery of certain information and only experienced trade secrets lawyers will be able to navigate these issues successfully.
At Burford Perry LLP, our experienced trade secret attorneys regularly handle trade secret issues involving alleged criminality. We understand the nuances of trade secret law and work to protect your trade secrets while pursuing parties that violate your trade secret rights. Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced trade secrets attorneys to see how we can help you reach a successful resolution.