Category Archives: Trade Secret

From Legal Tech/Law.Com news: A Bug Bounty for Discounts on Cyber Insurance

From our friends at Law.Com: In the growing market for cyber insurance, carriers are trying to compete on price.  One carrier, Coalition is offering discounts if your company creates a partnership with a “white hat hacker” and establishes a bug bounty with that hacker. The hacker gets a bounty for finding vulnerabilities. Legal Tech author Rhys Dipshan details the program in the article at this link:

Dipshan reports that “bug bounties” are becoming a popular weapon in combating cyber attacks. “Unsurprisingly” Dipshan reports, “bounty programs are becoming increasingly common in the tech and corporate world, with companies such as FacebookMicrosoft and Uber offering compensation for vulnerability disclosures. They also have caught on in the federal government as well, with the Department of Defense launching its “Hack the Pentagon” and “Hack the Air Force” programs.” Do you need a cyber bounty hunter?

Posted by Henry M. Sneath, Esq.

Houston Harbaugh, P.C. – Pittsburgh, Pa.

Chair of the Intellectual Property Practice Group and Co-Chair Litigation Practice Group

Contact at: or 412-288-4013


Merger Grows Pittsburgh Business and Litigation Law Firm Houston Harbaugh, P.C.: Expands Litigation Practice


Pittsburgh based law firm Houston Harbaugh, P.C. has announced its merger with the former and preeminent litigation boutique Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. (PSMN®) effective January 1, 2018. The merger creates a 43 lawyer firm with particular strengths in Business Law and Business Litigation, Employment, Employee Benefits/ERISA, Environmental and Energy Law, Estates and Trusts, Health Care, Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith Defense, Immigration, Intellectual Property, Oil and Gas, Products Liability and Catastrophic Injury Defense, Public Finance and Real Estate. This blog will feature posts on the law and litigation of Patent, Trademark, Copyright, Trade Secrets, Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), Cyber-Security, Technology matters and updates on the tremendous growth of the technology sector in Pittsburgh. Houston Harbaugh is proud to be among the regional law firms which are poised to provide high level, efficient, cost effective legal services for the new Eds, Meds, Energy and Technology economy in Pittsburgh, Ohio and West Virginia.

For more information on the merged firm please contact Marketing Director Anna Marks at 412-281-5060. See News Release regarding the merger here at:

DTSA Cases Being Filed: Defend Trade Secrets Act 2016

Posted by: DTSALAW.Com and DefendTradeSecretsAct.Lawyer Henry M. Sneath, Esq. – Chair of the Intellectual Property Practice Group at Pittsburgh, Pa. law firm Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. (PSMN® and PSMNLaw®). Mr. Sneath is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Duquesne University School of Law teaching Trade Secret Law, Trademark Law and the Law of Unfair Competition. He may be contacted at or 412-288-4013. See Websites or

The new DTSA federal civil remedy statute is already generating lawsuits being filed in Federal Courts. Two suits were recently filed in the Southern District of Florida with jurisdiction being claimed pursuant to the Defend Trade Secrets Act 2016 (DTSA). One case was also filed in the Northern District of Texas. See links to the cases below. In each Florida case, the plaintiff not only claimed trade secret misappropriation under the DTSA, but also under the Florida UTSA state statute (FUTSA). The Texas case brings claims under DTSA and the TUTSA along with pendent state law claims. This may become the trend as the DTSA and state statutes modeled after the Uniform Trade Secret Act describe trade secrets and misappropriation somewhat differently and provide, in some cases, different remedies. The differences in “definitions” between DTSA and the UTSA are not major, but they may make a difference if either is left out of a complaint filed in federal court.  We will monitor this trend and post in the future on new filings.

Interestingly, while both Florida cases seek injunctive relief in the complaint’s claims for relief, neither docket shows the filing of a separate Motion for TRO, Preliminary Injunction or motion for other injunctive relief. The Dean case brings only trade secret misappropriation claims under the DTSA and the FUTSA state statute. The Bonamar case brings claims under DTSA and FUTSA and a number of pendent State Law claims that you would expect to see in an employment related, non-disclosure, breach of covenants/contract case. In the Texas case, the plaintiff has filed an emergency motion for TRO under both state and federal law and a hearing is set for May 26, 2016. The motion and brief are linked below. Here are links to the cases on our website.

Florida Cases: Bonamar v. Turkin and Supreme Crab ; Dean V. City of Miami Beach et al

Texas Case: UPS v. Thornburg (Complaint) ; UPS v. Thornburg (Emergency Motion for TRO) ; UPS v. Thornburg (Brief in Support of Motion for TRO)

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Henry M. Sneath, Esq. 412-288-4013

Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) Seminar in Pittsburgh Jun 22, 2016

Posted by Henry M. Sneath, Esq. – Chair of the Intellectual Property Practice Group at Pittsburgh, Pa. law firm Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. (PSMN® and PSMNLaw®). Mr. Sneath is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Duquesne University School of Law teaching Trade Secret Law, Trademark Law and the Law of Unfair Competition. He may be contacted at or 412-288-4013. Website or

See copy of my Tweet from earlier today: “I’m pleased to be a part of the Federal Bar Association seminar set for Pittsburgh on the new Defend Trade Secrets Act   on June 22, 2016. Co-Hosted by the Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Law Association (PIPLA) and the Duquesne University School of Law, where I teach Trade Secret Law as an adjunct Professor of Law. Register at FBA link: and see my Tweet at
This is biggest Federal expansion of  #IP  Law since the Lanham Act and when signed by the President (today it appears) – it will provide immediate jurisdiction for  #tradesecret  actions in Federal Court.”

Big IP NEWS: Defend Trade Secrets Act 2016 (DTSA) Passes Congress – President to sign

EnrolledTitle_114Posted by Henry M. Sneath, Esq. – Chair of the Intellectual Property Practice Group at Pittsburgh, Pa. law firm Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. (PSMN® and PSMNLaw®). Mr. Sneath is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Duquesne University School of Law teaching Trade Secret Law, Trademark Law and the Law of Unfair Competition. He may be contacted at or 412-288-4013. Website or

The US Congress has passed the landmark Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) and it is set for the President’s signature. It will soon be law. See Link to DTSA Legislation here:    Trade Secret law has long been the province of the States, more or less exclusively, and except for criminal protections against trade secret theft and economic espionage, there has been no Federal civil law providing a federal damages remedy for such theft.  Amended will be Crimes and Criminal Procedures – Title 18, Chapter 90, Section 1836 and the key provision is as follows:

“(1) IN GENERAL.—An owner of a trade secret that is misappropriated may bring a civil action under this subsection if the trade secret is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce.”

Congress has now added a civil remedy provision to Federal protection of Trade Secrets wherein prior Federal law only provided criminal sanctions. This has been described as a major new development in Federal IP law and will provide federal jurisdiction for Trade Secret Misappropriation cases. The law will NOT preempt nor change State laws and therefore actions will be brought in both federal and state court jurisdictions. Most states (48) have adopted a form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) and actions can still be brought under those state statutes, but those statutes vary to some degree. The DTSA is very similar to the UTSA based state court statutes, but there will be differences depending on the state jurisdiction from which cases are brought or removed. DTSA will apply to any acts of trade secret misappropriation that take place AFTER the act is signed into law (not retroactive). The Statute of Limitations will be 3 years according to the actual text linked above, but some commentators have stated that it is 5 years (we will need to check to get accurate information on the SOL and will follow up).

The DTSA contains an important and somewhat controversial “Civil Seizure” provision which renders it different from most state laws and which reads:

“(i) APPLICATION.—Based on an affidavit or verified complaint satisfying the requirements of this paragraph, the court may, upon ex parte application but only in extraordinary circumstances, issue an order providing for the seizure of property necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret that is the subject of the action.”

This provision is controversial because it can be ordered by a court ex-parte. By amendment, the words “but only in extraordinary circumstances” were added to attempt to mollify some critics of this provision. However, there are some strict limitations to the ex-parte injunctions and a couple of them are below:

“(ii) REQUIREMENTS FOR ISSUING ORDER.—The court may not grant an application under clause (i) unless the court finds that it clearly appears from specific facts that—

“(I) an order issued pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or another form of equitable relief would be inadequate to achieve the purpose of this paragraph because the party to which the order would be issued would evade, avoid, or otherwise not comply with such an order;

“(II) an immediate and irreparable injury will occur if such seizure is not ordered.”

Such ex-parte injunctions must be very specific and the court must go to great lengths not to overreach or to punish through publicity an accused wrongdoer during the period of seizure. There are other typical requirements for injunctions like posting of security and careful management of the seized materials, and the accused wrongdoer has a right of action back against the claimant if the seizure turns out to be wrongful or excessive.

In an action for misappropriation, a court may order injunctive relief and may

“(B) award—

“(i) (I) damages for actual loss caused by the misappropriation of the trade secret; and

“(II) damages for any unjust enrichment caused by the misappropriation of the trade secret that is not addressed in computing damages for actual loss; or

“(ii) in lieu of damages measured by any other methods, the damages caused by the misappropriation measured by imposition of liability for a reasonable royalty for the misappropriator’s unauthorized disclosure or use of the trade secret;

“(C) if the trade secret is willfully and maliciously misappropriated, award exemplary damages in an amount not more than 2 times the amount of the damages awarded under subparagraph (B); and

“(D) if a claim of the misappropriation is made in bad faith, which may be established by circumstantial evidence, a motion to terminate an injunction is made or opposed in bad faith, or the trade secret was willfully and maliciously misappropriated, award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.”

It is unclear as to how this bill will be enforced against foreign Trade Secret theft, or if there will even be jurisdiction under this act for such claims. We will follow up on that issue in future posts. See the Senate and House reports below which contain a substantial amount of background legislative history and commentary. Contact us for additional information. We will continue to study this new law and report to our readers.

Here is a link to the US Senate report on the bill:

Here is a link to the US House report on the bill:

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Henry M. Sneath, Esquire – 412-288-4013 or

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Another Attempt at a Federal Trade Secrets Law

by: Kelly A. Williams, a shareholder at Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C.

US Capitol BuildingA bill was introduced on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives that would allow a private right of action for misappropriation of trade secrets under federal law.  Currently, federal law only provides criminal relief for the theft of trade secrets and civil relief is left to the laws of each state.  This is not the first time that Congress has tried to pass such a law.  An attempt approximately one year ago failed.  The current bill is title “Defend Trade Secrets Act,” and it would be enacted under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.  Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens of corporations, including IBM, Boeing, General Electric and Nike, support the bill.  Trade secrets and the protection of trade secrets are becoming increasingly important as the laws governing patent protection are changing and narrowing.  Let’s see if the government gets it done this time.

Business Leaders Rank Cyber Risk #2 on List of Main Concerns

Posted By Henry M. Sneath, Chair of the Cybersecurity and Data Breach Prevention and Response Team at Pittsburgh, Pa. law firm Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. or 412-288-4013

Travelers Business Risk ImageTravelers Indemnity and Insurance released its annual Business Risk Index, which is a survey of the concerns of business leaders and decision makers. Not surprisingly, for 2015, Cyber Risk moved up to the number 2 concern on that list, right behind rising healthcare costs. In some industry sectors it is the number 1 concern. The Banking and Financial Services, Professional Services, and Technology sectors each ranked cyber risks as the main driver of sleepless nights.  The chart on page 3 of the survey is very instructional as to the different concerns between small, medium and large businesses. Small businesses have less concern about data breach than larger businesses, but perhaps small businesses are overlooking their vulnerability and attractiveness as targets. If they care less, they will likely protect less, and become easy targets for hackers. It should be a huge concern for all businesses in all industries as no one appears immune. If you data store or deal in Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or Personal Health Information (PHI) as part of your business, then you are a valuable target. If you have financial or credit information, or trade secrets to protect, then perhaps your competitors, foreign governments and political hackers want to look inside your data. Many insurers are now offering Cyber Risk Insurance to provide defense and indemnity against these risks. Every business should have a data breach prevention and response team of employees and outside consultants and lawyers to audit the company’s vulnerability and to set the plan for a response when a breach occurs.  See the complete Travelers Business Risk Index at:

Cybersecurity (CISA) Bill Moves out of Congressional Committee

j0402514Posted By Henry M. Sneath, Chair of the Cybersecurity and Data Breach Response team at Pittsburgh, Pa. law firm Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. or 412-288-4013

Privacy concerns continue to dog the CISA (formerly CISPA) bill, but it easily passed out of the  Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.  Pundits claim that the bill pits “big government – NSA, Homeland Security et al allegedly aided by Big Tech Companies” against privacy advocates who want less regulation of data and the internet. I’m not sure if it lines up that neatly however. See this short article with a summary of the committee process from Wired.Com.

Here is an advocacy website piece which supports defeat of he bill.

We will continue to monitor the path of the bill to see if it makes it to the Senate Floor for a vote. For the complete text of the bill, view it at this link.

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Henry M. Sneath on Google+ or see his PSMN ® bio.

Congress Considering Stronger Trade Secret Laws

by: Robert Wagner, intellectual property attorney at Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. ()

shutterstock_65907358Congress is not limiting its intellectual property legislation to just patents. Senators Whitehorse and Graham announced yesterday that they are proposing new legislation to aid US companies in protecting their trade secrets via expanded criminal penalties. While just in a “discussion draft” stage, the proposed legislation  includes provisions that “cover[] foreign-sponsored trade secret theft, that victim companies can weigh in on how to protect trade secrets during criminal prosecutions, and to ensure that foreign hackers that victimize American companies can be held accountable.”

Among its provisions, the proposed legislation would:

  • expand coverage to prohibit government sponsored hacking
  • allow owners of the trade secrets more input in cases
  • clarify that the statute covers trade secret theft that is facilitated by means located in the US
  • clarify that “foreign instrumentalities” include companies that are substantially subsidized by foreign government entities
  • expand trade secrets to include negotiating strategies and positions
  • clarify that liability exists for any knowing conveyance of stolen trade secrets to foreign governments
  • make trade secret theft a RICO predicate act

The text of the discussion draft can be found here, along with a summary of the key provisions.

Patent or Trade Secret — Which One to Choose?

by: Robert Wagner, intellectual property attorney at Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. ()

There was an interesting article on CNBC yesterday that highlights a popular misconception people have regarding how to protect their ideas and innovations. While people often think of using patents to protect their ideas, the law provides a number of different mechanisms (such as trade secrets) that can often be far more useful and valuable than patents. The article highlights how some of the most valuable intellectual property in the world, such as the Dr. Pepper formula, KFC’s “Secret Recipe of 11 Herbs and Spices,” and the formula for WD-40, is not patented, but is instead protected as a trade secret.

Both patents and trade secrets provide important protections for an individual’s or company’s innovations, but they protect them in very different ways. Patents generally entitle an inventor to the exclusive right to make, use, and sell the invention described in the claims of the patent for a 20-year period from the date the patent application is filed. As part of the quid pro quo for obtaining this government-sanctioned exclusive right, the inventor must describe how to make or use his or her invention in sufficient detail that a person in that field would be able to make or use the invention without significant difficulties. Once that 20-year period expires, anyone is free to use that invention.

Trade secrets, on the other hand, potentially can last forever and the law will prevent others from improperly taking or using the invention, as long as the individual or company takes sufficient steps to keep the invention secret. Thus, a former employee who happens to know the secret will not be allowed to make the product in competition with the inventor, or a competing company cannot use industrial espionage to steal the secret. The law does not prevent another from using the secret if the person independently and lawfully discovers the same invention on his or her own, though. It only protects the inventor from others who have improperly discovered or used the secret.

From these brief descriptions, it is clear that patents better protect some kinds of inventions, while keeping the invention a trade secret may better protect others. For instance, it may make more sense to consider patenting the invention when the innovative aspect of an invention is readily seen simply by looking at a product (such as with a paper clip or a pop-top soda can).  The law will protect the inventor from anyone else making or selling the same invention for 20 years, even if that other inventor independently came up with the same idea. Trade secret protection is likely of little to no value in this case, because once the invention is sold, everyone knows what the invention actually is.

On the other hand, inventions such as the Dr. Pepper formula are not easy to determine, even when you have a can of Dr. Pepper in your hands. The precise ingredients and the process by which they are blended are not apparent. This kind of invention lends itself to being kept as a trade secret because the invention is not easily reversed engineered. If Dr. Pepper had chosen the patent route instead, it would only have had an exclusive right to make and sell the soda only for 20 years, after which everyone could make exactly the same product. By protecting it as a trade secret, it potentially can keep its invention a secret forever.

One of the keys with trade secrets is that the inventor must take reasonable and active steps to keep the invention secret. As the article mentions, many of these companies restrict knowledge of the complete formulas or processes to only a handful of individuals and take steps make sure that the products are manufactured in such a way that no one can determine what the recipes are. If an inventor does not take steps to keep his or her invention secret, the law will not do it for him or her.

Obviously, both patent and trade secret law are far more complex than what is discussed here. However, the basic principles are useful to understand so that the right questions can be asked and the right strategies considered when deciding how to protect your secrets and inventions.