Brigham Young Univ. v. Pfizer, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property
  • Area(s) of Law: Trade Secrets
  • Date Filed: 03-22-2012
  • Case #: 2:06-CV-890 TS
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Stewart
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Utah precedent, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act preempts claims based on the unauthorized use of information, regardless of whether that information met the statutory definition of a trade secret.

Opinion (Stewart): Brigham Young University (“BYU”) shared research, knowledge, and biological material with Monsanto, a subsidiary of Pfizer, Inc. (“Pfizer”). With BYU’s research, BYU alleged, Pfizer learned of COX-2, and the ability to develop a testing system for COX-2 selective NSAIDs, resulting in “billions of dollars” in profits for Pfizer. BYU claimed that Pfizer used fraud and misrepresentation to deny BYU its rightful economic gain, and was unjustly enriched. Pfizer moved for summary judgment, arguing that under Utah precedent, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“USTA”) preempted claims based on the unauthorized use of information, regardless of whether that information met the statutory definition of a trade secret. The court then had to consider whether the facts underlying BYU’s claims of unjust enrichment and fraud would support a claim of misappropriation of trade secrets. BYU argued that since not all of their claims were based on the “unauthorized use of information,” the UTSA should not preempt their causes of action. The Court found that because each of BYU’s claims were premised on Pfizer’s wrongful acquisition and use of BYU’s research, the UTSA should preempt BYU’s action. The court GRANTED Pfizer’s motion for partial summary judgment on the question of UTSA preemption.

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