DTSA Litigation Updates

Universal Protection Services v. Thornburg et al, Docket No. 2:16-cv-00097 (N.D. Tex. May 19, 2016)

In this newly filed DTSA case, Universal Protection (a company providing security guards, etc.) has sued its former employee Thornburg for trade secret misappropriation (as well as various breach contract claims involving his non-compete agreement and breach of loyalty).  In the case, Thornburg apparently developed a good relationship as head of security for a customer (JBS) and decided to quit his job and start-up a competing company where he could charge the company less and make more money.  The primary trade-secret at issue here is apparently the pricing plan provided to JBS and the security plan (developed by Thornburg while at JBS).  [Read the complaint: UniversalProtectionServiceDTSA].

 

 

Dennis Crouch

About Dennis Crouch

Law Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. Co-director of the Center for Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship.

8 thoughts on “DTSA Litigation Updates

  1. The most notable aspect of it is that Defendant Thornburg is the only Texan and resides in Dallas. While both Amarillo and Dallas are within the N.D. Tex, Amarillo is 364 miles from Dallas. The Amarillo Division is basically a wasteland and has developed no expertise in trade secret or IP law.

    Not sure if this is abusive (plaintiffs are Chicago lawyers, after all, sorry Dennis), or an attempt to get a rural jury. This isn’t like Tyler or Marshall, which are less than half the distance from Dallas and in another district entirely.

    1. The complaint says he lives in Dumas, not Dallas, and one of the other defendants has a registered place of business in Cactus, Texas. Both are near Amarillo. Maybe Amarillo will become the “go-to” venue for DTSA cases.

  2. I do not know about the pricing plan, but if the “security plan” was developed by Thornburg himself and if he cannot switch jobs/or work independently in this field because of this work his right to work will be significantly impaired.

    His own work is his own skill and knowledge to the extent that it is in his brain when he leaves. All the employer can ever get, IMHO, is akin to a shop right.

    This case is the first case under the new act that raises significant issues regarding liberty. The remedy should be denied to the extent of the “security plan.”

    1. Ned how are you gonna cleanly separate the pricing from the man’s knowledge of the industry etc.? How secret can pricing be when the customer and the former employee know the figures? Followed to the letter, nobody can get a job elsewhere without bringing “trade secrets” along.

      Yea, significant issues regarding liberty are raised, just as they are with patents for ideas.

      1. Martin, you make a very good point. I was thinking on this long and hard myself after my OP.

        I was also thinking that Thornburg might file a state court action seeking a declaration that under Texas law, he has a right to take with him his skill and knowledge as a matter of common law and of liberty.

    2. The way I read the complaint, there is no generic non-compete agreement (see para. 37). However, Thornburg allegedly agreed not to solicit existing customers he worked with for a period of 12 months. So it seems, per the complaint, he can take his “security plan” anywhere he wants – just not to the existing customer, and then only for a period of 12 months. This case probably isn’t the best to address any liberty issues (especially since Thornburg allegedly started up the competing business while he was still working for the plaintiff).

      1. Pilgrim, Agreed. If he violated a specific, limited, non compete that was adequately supported by consideration, then his liberty interests are not being harmed.

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