Trade Secret MisappropriationUber and Lyft are both internet and mobile application based technology companies offering a peer-to-peer ridesharing platform. Or for less tech-speak, they are involved in what is generally described as the “sharing economy.” However, a recent lawsuit makes clear that sharing has its limits.

Specifically, Lyft is suing a former executive (Lyft v Uber (PDF)), Travis VanderZanden, for breaching his confidentiality agreement and fiduciary duty and after he jumped ship to join Lyft’s chief rival, Uber. According to the complaint filed in the lawsuit, the former executive copied vast amounts of confidential information on his way out the door. Uber has denied that Mr. VanderZanden has “shared” any of this information with Uber. 

These claims and allegations are by no means extraordinary. But they do provide a perfect roadmap for both employers and employees to follow when it comes ending one employment relationship in order to join a competitor. But instead of taking an all-out road trip to address all of those issues, two points stand-out.

How to Get Guarantee Your Former Employer Will Sue You

As to the firs issue, a little background for what not to do if you are an employee about to join a competitor: Lyft’s lawsuit alleges that VanderZanden informed the company’s founders of his plans to resign on August 12 and agreed to meet with the founders on August 15. But VanderZanden cancelled that meeting and suggested they speak after the weekend.

According to the complaint, it was a busy weekend for Mr. VanderZanden. Lyft alleges that he backed up a number of emails and confidential documents to his personal home computer and mobile phone before handing his company computer back. These actions were discovered after Lyft conducted a forensics analysis of VanderZanden’s company-issued laptop. The analysis further revealed that months prior to the departure, Mr. VanderZanden synchronized his personal Dropbox account with his Lyft laptop, copying a “significant number of Lyft’s most sensitive documents” in the process.

So the first issue for both employers and employees is really two sides of the same coin. From an employee’s perspective, assume your digital fingerprints will point to every piece of digital information you touched, e.g., every file, every email, every document, etc. And if those fingerprints suggest you took you former employer’s information to your new employer, be prepared to be sued.

And because these digital fingerprints provide valuable insight, employers need to have a plan in place to preserve this likely treasure trove of digital evidence. This is because the absence of such evidence may eliminate an expensive Don Quixote-like endeavor against the former employee. There is nothing worse than spending A+ resources on a C- employee or situation.

Conversely, the presence of such evidence will be needed to convince a judge that injunctive relief is appropriate and to otherwise support claims against the former employee. As part of your company’s plan, you’ll need to address how to preserve, analyze, and use the digital evidence.

Play a Strong Hand; Bluffing in Litigation Can Be Costly
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Computer Crime HandcuffsOne of the more noteworthy employer/employee trade-secret misappropriation and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act  (CFAA) cases came to an end earlier this week. Specifically, Mr. David Nosal wa sentenced on January 8, 2014 to one year and one day in prison. He was convicted for misappropriating his former employer’s trade secrets and improperly accessing the

Risk, Reduce, Avoid.jpgWith Christmas quickly approaching, employers should expect that their employees will be enjoying new technology devices entering the new year. And this means employers should expect new employment law compliance issues and technology risks for their companies. 

Bring Your Own Devices and Employment Law Compliance Issues

Employee owned devices create a minefield for employers when

Security_Computer_Laptop in Chain.jpegA well written article by Connie Bertram, asks the question “Is Self-Help Discovery by Employees Protected Activity?”

The title of the article refers to situations where an employee attempts to gather factual support or to otherwise pursue an employment discrimination claim or a related employment-based lawsuit against the employer by accessing employer files

Security Padlock.jpgThe California based law firm Littler Mendelson’s Unfair Competition and Trade Secrets Practice Group discussed a recent dismissal of a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act claim brought by a company against its former employee.

The case, Ajuba International, L.L.C. v. Saharia (PDF), involved the U.S. federal court for the Eastern District of Michigan rejecting

Security_Computer_Laptop in Chain.jpegPreviously this blog outlined the various approaches Courts have taken to applying the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. 1030, to workplace misuse of employer provided computer resources.

A recent opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, seriously limits the applicability of the CFAA to the employer/employee relationship and challenges other

Security_Computer_Laptop in Chain.jpegMichigan Companies were recently given a new tool for fighting back against trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition.

Specifically, in Actuator Specialties, Inc. v. Chinavare the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s determination that Actuator Specialties established a threat of misappropriation against its former employee and his new employer. This threat entitled

Business Headlock.jpgFestivus – as introduced by Seinfeld – is a holiday celebration that included the “Airing of Grievances,” i.e., public criticism and pronouncements as to how a particular person has been a disappointment in the past year. 

The timing of holiday and year-end bonuses also often mark the beginning of a similar airing of

Business professional in handcuffs.jpgA recent opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (PDF) confirms that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (essentially a federal computer hacking statute) continues to be a significant resource for employers to protect against the loss and damage of mission critical information due to departing or rogue employees.

To add the Computer

Security Padlock.jpgA 2011 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, underscores the importance of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act plays in combating disgruntled employees who steal company data. This case also highlights important steps employers should take in protecting company IT infrastructure and digital information from internal threats.

In that case, the former employer worked in