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Bohnsack v. Varco

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 01-23-2012
Case #: 10-20741
Stewart
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/10/10-20741-CV0.wpd.pdf

Trade Secrets: If the plaintiff filed for a patent on the defendant’s invention, this is enough to constitute use of the defendant’s trade secret.

Bohnsack was an engineer who worked for Varco, a company that cleaned drilling fluids. Bohnsack invented a machine he called “Pit Bull”, that was intended to make the process more efficient. After discussing for several years who should have the right to manufacture “Pit Bull”, Varco stopped the discussions and Bohnsack sued Varco for trade secret misappropriation. The district court found in favor of Bohnsack and awarded him damages. Varco motioned for judgment as a matter of law and the motion was denied. Varco appealed the denial of the motion. Varco argued that Bohnsack’s claim of trade secret misappropriation failed as a matter of law because didn’t prove that Varco used the trade secrets and Bohnsack didn’t prove damages that would have resulted from misappropriation of the trade secrets. The Court of Appeals found that when Varco filed a patent application for the “Pit Bull” that this lowered the market value of the “Pit Bull” for Bohnsack and that by doing so this provided protection to Varco from its competitors. This was enough to constitute use by Varco and damages to Bohnsack. The district court did not err when it found in favor of Bohnsack. The Court of Appeals AFFIRMED for Bohnsack.