Background - Practices (Details)

Trade Secrets & Insider Threats Investigations


Trade-secret theft comes in many forms and costs companies worldwide hundreds of billions of dollars every year. While competitor or state-led corporate espionage and intellectual property thefts pose an ongoing danger, trade secrets today are increasingly compromised by careless or malicious employees. Such insider threats are as likely to cripple a business that depends on the security of its intellectual property as are the acts of any outside party.

To successfully protect against and respond to information security risks, businesses and organizations require skilled and experienced legal counsel. They need lawyers capable of identifying weaknesses in company security processes, policies, and technologies, and responding swiftly and effectively to all manner of breaches. At Crowell & Moring, our trade secrets attorneys are skilled investigators and crisis managers, as well as seasoned litigators whose work includes obtaining one of the largest contested trade secret verdicts in history. We have years of experience and a proven track record of success working with industry-leading clients to protect trade secrets, both before and after a breach occurs.


Our trade secrets team employs a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to trade secret protection. To ensure that our clients and their information are protected from the full range of threats, we bring together attorneys skilled in labor and employment law, intellectual property law, white collar crime and regulatory enforcement, international trade and dispute resolution, government contracts, litigation, and forensic investigation.

We work with our clients to establish and maintain security protocols, investigate potential threats or security breaches, secure information that has been compromised, and initiate a range of civil and criminal processes to enforce intellectual property rights. Our primary goal is to keep our clients’ businesses running smoothly, confident that their proprietary information and interests are protected.

Our services include:

  • Investigating potential security breaches and managing comprehensive forensic reviews and on-site inspections.
  • Working with U.S. government agencies and law-enforcement officials to investigate and develop criminal cases arising from trade secret theft, as well as to defend such cases.
  • Providing preemptive counsel on trade secret protection, conducting audits and portfolio analyses, and developing robust on-boarding and off-boarding programs.
  • Preparing and negotiating non-competition, non-solicitation, and confidentiality agreements.
  • Working with foreign law enforcement agencies and governments in cases of cross-border theft of trade secrets.
  • Pursuing, when necessary, legal actions for the misappropriation of trade secrets, including seeking preliminary injunctive relief to prevent the improper use of wrongfully acquired data.

Representative Matters

Crowell & Moring has represented a diverse range of clients—from emerging start-ups to large, international companies—and helped protect their trade secrets against a wide variety of external and internal threats.

  • Successfully prosecuted massive theft of Fortune 100 company’s crown-jewel technology. We represented E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company in the highly successful civil and criminal prosecution of a Korean company, Kolon Industries, Inc., that had misappropriated key aspects of the technology used to make DuPont’s flagship KEVLAR® product. This required intensive investigation, including review of a massive volume of foreign-language documents, mastery of the technology at issue, questioning witnesses in lengthy civil depositions, and working with federal law enforcement on a parallel criminal investigation. After a seven-week civil trial, we obtained the largest contested trade secrets award in history. The case also involved multiple criminal and foreign proceedings. DuPont ultimately received $275 million in restitution as a result of a criminal trade secrets theft guilty plea by Kolon. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company v. Kolon Industries, Inc., et al., (E.D. Va.) and United States v. Kolon Industries, Inc., et al. (E.D. Va.).
  • Pursued former employees for violations of confidentiality agreements. Represented the plaintiff in successfully pursuing claims of misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of confidentiality agreements against former employees and their new company. Liquid Environmental Solutions of Texas v. U.S. Oil Recovery (Harris County, Texas).
  • Protected the lifeblood of an information-age company. Represented a leading supplier of semiconductor and optical components that enable high-speed information streaming in the communications industry in an action for breach of contract, breach of employees’ duty of loyalty, and misappropriation of trade secrets against five former employees, their new company, and its parent. Achieved a favorable but confidential settlement on the verge of trial. GigOptix v. Optomai, et al. (Cal. Super. Ct., Santa Clara County).
  • Negotiated a favorable settlement to a trade-secrets-related government contracts dispute. Secured a favorable settlement for BAE Systems Land & Armaments L.P. in a trade secret case involving a subcontractor of a teaming partner with whom BAE partnered to work on a vehicle emergency escape (VEE) window suitable for use in the U.S. Army's M1151 vehicle. The subcontractor, Standard Bent Glass, is alleged to have misappropriated trade secrets regarding the product. BAE Systems Land & Armaments L.P. v. Standard Bent Glass Corp. (W.D. Pa.).
  • Stopped former employees from profiting from stolen information. On behalf of a government defense contractor, obtained a TRO, later converted to a preliminary injunction, against two former employees who were caught misappropriating company and government information. Conducted an intense forensic investigation to uncover the evidence of misappropriation despite the defendants’ use of anti-forensic software to hide their actions and significant destruction of relevant evidence. (Orange County Superior Court).
  • Won a TRO and permanent injunction from trading company executive. Successfully pursued a preliminary injunction and ultimately won a permanent injunction against and damages from an executive who absconded with highly confidential and proprietary trading strategies and products worth over $10 million, thus preventing the further disclosure of information. INTL FCStone, IFM v. Michael Ortiz (Illinois state court).
  • Obtained a TRO against a former sales team and head of manufacturing. Obtained a TRO to prohibit trade secrets misappropriation and employee poaching in a case involving a competitor who hired away our client’s key engineers, salespeople, and head of manufacturing. The case settled favorably after a full-day evidentiary preliminary injunction hearing. Dow Corning v. NuSil Technology, et al. (Michigan state court).
  • Obtained a favorable settlement against allegations of patent-related trade secrets theft. Represented the plaintiff in a trade-secret action involving magnetic pulse welding technology, against allegations that the defendant secretly pursued a patent application while employed by the client, threatening to disclose the client’s trade secrets. Obtained a favorable settlement on the eve of trial ensuring continued secrecy of the trade secrets. Dana Limited v. Yablochnikov (Lucas County, Ohio).
  • Employee raiding and theft of a government contractor’s trade secrets. Secured a favorable settlement on behalf of a government contractor suing a newly formed competitor in an employee raiding and theft of trade secret case. Predicate Logic Inc. v. Lillian Maestas, et al. (Superior Court of California, San Diego)
  • Protected the development of a highly sensitive product. In a supplier dispute relating to the development of a highly sensitive product, won our client’s request in federal court for a TRO based on misappropriation of trade secrets and violation of non-compete clause. During the two-day evidentiary hearing, the supplier then stipulated to injunctive relief. The supplier's parallel request for a TRO and an injunction to require continued performance was denied after a hearing in a second federal court. Anheuser-Busch v. Afa Dispensing Group, et al. (E.D. Mo. and S.D.N.Y.).
  • Defended complex trade secrets matters in Belgium. Represented Ajinomoto in the Belgian chapter of the global L-Lysine-battle. The dispute involved fierce patent litigation and featured complex issues involving confidential know-how, including the strategic interaction between know-how and patents, as well as complicated international jurisdiction and infringement issues, among other legal questions. Ajinomoto Co. Inc. v. Global Biochem Technology & Co. (Antwerp Court of Appeal).
  • Protected the know-how of an employment-industry client. Represented the defendant and achieved a favorable settlement in litigation that followed our client’s departure from the plaintiff’s business and establishment of a new headhunting company in the financial sector. Besides copyright and database protection, the litigation also related to allegedly protected know-how dealing with recruitment processes, selection techniques, and client development. Van Turenhoudt & Partners v. HR Attitude (Brussels Court of First Instance).