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23 February 2023MedtechLiz Hockley

Medtech firm takes ex-employee to court over alleged trade secrets breach

California-based company claims materials engineer emailed himself confidential information | Trade secrets related to artificial heart valve materials.

Artificial heart valve manufacturer Edwards Lifesciences is taking a former employee to court over allegations of trade secrets misappropriation.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, February 21, at the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Edwards accused a former senior materials engineer of emailing himself large amounts of confidential information in violation of his employment agreement.

Access to designs for components

The engineer had been working at California-based Edwards for around a year and a half when he announced he intended to resign on September 9, 2022. According to the suit, he was going to join a German materials company, and his last day of work at Edwards was to be on September 23.

In his role, the defendant had access to confidential, proprietary and trade secrets designs for products and components, as well as information for training and facility design, according to Edwards. His work involved research on materials to be used in the firm’s medical devices.

It is alleged in the lawsuit that prior to his last day, he emailed “a large amount of proprietary and confidential data that included some of Edwards’ most tightly held trade secrets to his personal email account, despite having signed an employee agreement forbidding this sort of activity”.

Trade secrets protection

Edwards says that the theft of confidential information is one of the biggest threats to its business and that it takes a number of steps to protect its IP, including requiring employees to follow procedures to this aim.

The firm states that the engineer signed an employee agreement and received an employee handbook on his arrival at the company that explained its trade secrets policy and procedures, as well as a form detailing his ongoing obligations when he left.

Edwards says that this involved him checking a box to state he had not “copied, saved, retained, disclosed, or transmitted in any form whatsoever, any confidential, proprietary or trade secret information”.

However, the firm claims that contrary to this statement, he had sent himself emails with “directly attached Edwards documents” containing trade secrets, as well as sharing a link with himself to Edwards OneDrive—a cloud-based storage area that contained a “vast number of documents” covering sensitive information.

Edwards Lifesciences is asking for an injunction restraining him from possessing or using its trade secrets, as well as damages and attorneys’ fees. The allegations are misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, and breach of the duty of loyalty.

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton is representing Edwards Lifesciences.

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