Tuesday, April 05, 2011
5th Circuit: combination of things in public domain COULD be a trade secret if combination is secret
In Tewari De-Ox Sys., Inc. v. Mountain States/Rosen, L.L.C., No. 10-50137 (5th Cir. Apr. 5, 2011), the Fifth Circuit reversed summary judgment for the defendant in a trade secret case under Texas law. The district court had held that the plaintiff could not prove that its alleged packaging process -- designed to retard meat spoilage -- was a secret, because the various steps or components of the process were either previously disclosed in plaintiff's prior patent application or in the public domain. Reversing, the Fifth Circuit held that disclosure of all the components of a process does not necessarily preclude trade secret status IF the alleged combination of the components is both unique and a secret. The Court discussed other issues, too, but this was the most important bit.