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Lamont v. Vaquillas Energy Lopeno, Ltd.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 12-11-2013
Case #: No. 04-12-00219-CV
Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
Full Text Opinion: http://www.search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=ad517936-edca-45f8-a4ed-80c98adbb5ed&coa=coa04&DT=Opinion&MediaID=3d2b3312-4a92-4ded-95be-93e46c64cd03
LexisNxis Link: 2013 Tex. App. LEXIS 14879
Westlaw Link: 2013 WL 6480590

Trade Secrets: Misappropriation: An employee's duty to protect the trade secrets of his/her employer extends beyond the resignation of the employee, even when the trade secret was emailed to the employee after the effective date of resignation.

Opinion (Alvarez): Jerry Hamblin ("Hamblin") and Thomas Lamont ("Lamont") formed Ricochet Energy, Inc. ("Ricochet") in 1996. In 2003 and 2004, Ricochet entered into Prospect Generation Agreements (PGAs) with Vaquillas Energy Lopeno, Ltd. ("Vaquillas") and JOB Energy Partners II, Ltd. ("JOB"). The PGAs obligated Ricochet to discover oil and gas exploitation opportunities in Texas and to present opportunities to Vaquillas and JOB for right of first refusal. Vaquillas and JOB also had a proprietary interest in all data and analysis gathered for the projects which they elected to pursue. In 2004, Ricochet identified a potential project and produced a seismic “treasure map” outlining the gas reservoir. In 2005, the parties agreed to pursue the project and obtained the lease to one of the tracts of land over the reservoir. Drilling began in 2007. In 2006, Lamont notified Hamblin that he intended to leave Ricochet, and the two began negotiations relating to his separation. In January, 2007, Lamont (while still in the process of negotiating his separation from Ricochet) met with oil investor Rosendo Carranco ("Carranco"). Lamont shared with Carranco data relating to the Ricochet gas project. Carranco and Lamont then acquired the drilling lease to the other tract of land over the Ricochet gas project reservoir, and proceeded to extract gas which would have otherwise been extracted by Ricochet, Vaquillas, and JOB. Vaquillas and JOB filed suit alleging, among other causes of action, misappropriation of trade secrets. A jury ruled in favor of Vaquillas and JOB. Lamont appealed. On appeal, Lamont argued that the seismic “treasure map” lost its trade secret protection when Ricochet emailed it to him after the date of his resignation. Vaquillas counter argued that the map was emailed only for the limited purpose of allowing Lamont to properly negotiate with third parties regarding the partial interest he retained in the Ricochet project, not so that he could compete against the project. The court ruled in favor of Vaquillas, noting that Lamont duty to protect Ricochet’s trade secrets survived his resignation and that, when he was no longer employed by Ricochet, he did not have the power to destroy the trade secret status of the map. The court, therefore, AFFIRMED the judgment against Lamont.