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FormFactor, Inc. v. Micro-Probe, Inc.

United States District Court for the Northern District of California

June 7, 2012, Decided; June 7, 2012, Filed

No. C 10-3095 PJH



The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment came on for hearing before this court on May 9, 2012. Plaintiff FormFactor, Inc. appeared by its counsel William J. Robinson; defendant Micro-Probe, Inc. appeared by its counsel Richard I. Yankwich and Rajiv Dharnidharka; and defendant David Browne appeared by his counsel Deborah Sirias. Having read the parties papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, and  [*2] good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS defendants' motion and DENIES plaintiff's motion.


This is a case alleging patent infringement and state law claims of trade secret misappropriation and breach of confidence. Plaintiff FormFactor, Inc. ("FormFactor") designs, manufactures, sells, and supports high-performance "advanced wafer probe card assemblies," which are used to test semiconductor wafers before the wafers are cut up onto individual "chips."

Wafer probe card products can be one of three types — DRAM (dynamic random access memory), SoC (system on a chip) non-memory, or Flash memory. FormFactor's business is primarily focused on DRAM, with 70% of its revenue derived from DRAM-related products. FormFactor also has significant business in Flash memory products (approximately 15% of its revenue). A number of companies compete in the market for wafer probe card products. For example, defendant Micro-Probe Incorporated ("Micro-Probe") also develops, manufactures, and supports wafer probe card products. However, Micro-Probe's business is focused solely on the non-memory SoC market.

In the present action, FormFactor asserts that Micro-Probe has been hiring current and former  [*3] FormFactor employees, including engineers and marketing executives, for the express purpose of having them disclose FormFactor's confidential technical and marketing information. Among the former FormFactor employees hired by Micro-Probe is defendant David Browne ("Browne").

Browne joined FormFactor in 2000, eventually becoming Vice President of DRAM Business Management. From 2000 until 2004, Browne managed FormFactor's account for Intel. In 2004, FormFactor hired another employee, Timothy Lillie, to manage that account. Mr. Lillie testified that starting around the end of 2004, he was solely responsible for managing the Intel account at FormFactor, and that Browne no longer worked on it.

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2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79359 *; 2012 WL 2061520

FORMFACTOR, INC., Plaintiff, v. MICRO-PROBE, INC., et al., Defendants.

Subsequent History: Vacated by, Dismissed by, Stay dissolved by Formfactor, Inc. v. Micro-Probe Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175773 (N.D. Cal., Nov. 21, 2012)

Prior History: FormFactor, Inc. v. Micro-Probe, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62233 (N.D. Cal., May 3, 2012)

Disposition:  Motion granted.


trade secret, misappropriation, files, employees, confidential information, documents, hired, deposition, summary judgment, confidential, no evidence, disclosure, scorecard, products, breach of confidence, conspiracy, marketing, probe, card, unfair competition, hard drive, backed, secret, particularity, declaration, downloaded, external, genuine, secrecy, wafer

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Motions for Summary Judgment, General Overview, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Materiality of Facts, Genuine Disputes, Evidentiary Considerations, Absence of Essential Element, Nonmovant Persuasion & Proof, Judgments, Evidentiary Considerations, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Cross Motions, Allocation, Trade Secrets Law, Misappropriation Actions, Elements of Misappropriation, Definitions of Misappropriation, Existence & Ownership, Protected Information, Civil Actions, Burdens of Proof, Trade Secret Determination Factors, Definition Under Common Law, Protection of Secrecy, Reasonable Measures, Opposing Materials, Accompanying Documentation, Supporting Materials, Affidavits, Disclosures, Acquisition, Use, Federal Versus State Law, Common Law, Labor & Employment Law, Conditions & Terms, Trade Secrets & Unfair Competition, Noncompetition & Nondisclosure Agreements, Employee Duties & Obligations, Right to Compete, Covenants Not to Compete, Torts, Concerted Action, Civil Conspiracy, Elements