All Am. Semiconductor v. Apx Tech. Corp. (Unpublished)

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trade Secrets, Ownership of Technology
  • Date Filed: 08-14-2013
  • Case #: G046605 (Consol. with G046613, G046803 & G047643)
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5718
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 4434345
  • Full Text Opinion

A plaintiff must establish ownership of a trade secret in a design by identifying a specific secret that meets the elements to be protected by law.

Opinion (Aronson): All American Semiconductor, LLC ("All American") was an LLC formed to purchase in bankruptcy. All American's customers included manufacturers of various technology products. One of All American's subsidiaries was All American A.V.E.D., Inc. ("A.V.E.D.") which created “memory modules,” an assembly of certain components on a printed circuit board. All American bought from A.V.E.D. all tangible property and all rights to said property. All American claimed that the ownership of memory modules constituted intellectual property even though other companies (including Apx Tech. Corp., the defendant) assembled other memory modules based on A.V.E.D.’s designs. All American claimed to own the trade secret of memory modules and argued that it owned memory module designs created by defendant. The fundamental test for a trade secret is whether the matter sought to be protected is information (1) which is valuable because it is unknown to others and (2) which the owner has attempted to keep secret. Information that is generally known to the public or to persons in the relevant industry is not a trade secret. The plaintiff must own the trade secret and be able to establish ownership. A cause of action for misappropriation of a trade secret consists of the following elements: (1) possession by the plaintiff of the trade secret; (2) the defendant's misappropriation of a trade secret, meaning its wrongful acquisition, disclosure or use; and (3) resulting or threatened injury to the plaintiff. Summary adjudication was deemed proper because the plaintiff failed to establish ownership of the trade secret. The main flaw was that plaintiff never identified what constituted the trade secret in any particular memory module design, and it was not a novel commercial secret that would be worthy of legal protection. Plaintiff failed to establish that it knew anything of the trade secret that it claimed to have created. Plaintiff may not leave mysterious exactly which pieces of information are the trade secrets and must do more than just identify a kind of technology expecting the court to assume it meets the definition and elements of a trade secret. The court AFFIRMED the trial court’s summary adjudication.

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