The San Antonio Court of Appeals recently held that having a position to use trade secrets is sufficient to grant temporary injunctions. Under the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, an applicant for a temporary injunction is not required to present evidence of trade-secret use; mere possession and opportunity to use is sufficient.
The case involves AGE Industries, Ltd. (“AI”), a manufacturer of corrugated boxes and packing materials. Christopher Michael Hughes was a general manager and limited partner of AI for nearly 20 years until he resigned in June 2016 and joined a newly formed competitor, Diamondback Corrugated Container, LLC (“Diamondback”). On August 30, 2016, AI sued Hughes for misappropriation of trade secrets under the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The trial court granted AI’s application for temporary injunction requiring Hughes to produce a list of all documents and proprietary information belonging to AI in Hughes’s possession and enjoining him from using or disclosing AI’s proprietary or trade secret information.
Hughes appealed the trial court’s grant of temporary injunction, and contended, among other arguments, that AI failed to show evidence of a probable, imminent, and irreparable injury. Hughes asserted that AI only expressed fear of possible injury. However, AI presented evidence during the temporary-injunction hearing that showed Hughes downloaded a large amount of data from AI prior to his resignation. Additionally, some of AI’s financial information that Hughes maintained could not be found after his resignation. Hughes admitted having AI’s confidential information in his personal computer. Hughes stated that he could not testify under oath that his emails to an employee of Diamondback did not contain AI’s proprietary information.
The Court of Appeals of Texas (San Antonio) affirmed the temporary injunction and reasoned that because there was some evidence that “Hughes was in a position to use AI’s trade secrets to gain an unfair market advantage,” the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that AI established a probable, imminent, irreparable injury.
The case is Hughes v. Age Industries, Ltd., 04-16-00693-CV, in the Court of Appeals of Texas (San Antonio).