Koninklijke Philips N.V., et al. v. Elec-tech international Co., Ltd.

14-cv-02737
March 20, 2015
Federal Court
Federal Statutes
Northern District of California

In this case, Plaintiff, Koninklijke Philips N.V. (“Philips”), et al. brought ten causes of action alleging that Dr. Chen, who was an employee of Plaintiff Lumileds Lighting Company, downloaded thousands of files “containing Philips Lumileds’ trade secrets and confidential business information onto a portable storage device." Complaint, ECF 1 ¶ 5. Dr. Chen then became employed by Defendant, Elec-Tech international Co., Ltd (“ETI”) and only six months into this employment, ETI announced two “new high-energy LED lighting products, an amount of time Plaintiffs claim is ‘unprecedented’ in the lighting industry.” Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Elec-Tech International Co., Ltd., no. 14-cv-12737-BLF, 2015 WL 1289984 at *1 (N.D. Ca. March 30, 2015). The Plaintiffs used one claim under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) to bring the other nine state claims. The court here held that the Plaintiffs did not state a CFAA claim upon which relief can be granted and therefore dismissed the nine state law based trade secret claims as well as the CFAA claim.

The Plaintiffs in this case were creative in finding a way to try to get their Trade Secret claims into federal court. However, the court took a strict stand against using the CFAA for misappropriation purposes. The court pointed out that the CFAA is interpreted by courts as “an anti-hacking statute.” Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Elec-Tech International Co., Ltd., no. 14-cv-12737-BLF, 2015 WL 1289984 at *3 (N.D. Ca. March 30, 2015) (citing United States v. Nosal, 676 F.3d 854, 858 (9th Cir.2012)). Additionally, in the past, the Ninth Circuit has expressly refused to expand this statute to cover misappropriation. Id. While this is a blow for Philips here, this does help the argument for federal trade secret legislation. If courts are going to hold the bar this high for federal statutes that could be expanded to include misappropriation, then federal trade secret legislation is necessary in order to afford trade secret protection by the federal courts as well as state courts.

et al., Koninklijke Philips N.V.
Elec-tech international Co., Ltd.
Other federal statute