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The law of trade secrets does not protect information disclosed without establishing a basis for its confidentiality.
Machen, Inc., and American Aviation, Inc., develop and manufacture new airplane parts on an aftermarket basis. Appellant hired Darwin Conrad, respondent, as a salesman and became appellant’s research and development coordinator. Years later, respondent and an American customer, formed a corporation called Aircraft Design, respondent company. It became the exclusive distributor of a modified Beechcraft Duke brake for use on the Piper Aerostar. The brake was manufactured by a major manufacturer of brakes for private aircraft. Appellants then brought an action against respondents, a competitor and former employee, and alleged misappropriation of trade secrets and a claim for breach of common law and contractual duties of confidentiality. Respondents counterclaimed for slander and an antitrust counterclaim against appellant. Respondents moved for summary judgment dismissal of the trade secret claims. The motion was granted, as to the engine project, the trial court determined as a matter of law the following was not a protectable trade secret. Respondent also moved for summary judgment dismissal of Machen's claim for breach of a written confidentiality and ownership of invention agreement. The trial court determined the agreement lacked consideration and was invalid and unenforceable.
Was the respondent guilty of misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of a confidentiality agreement?
No. The court affirmed the judgment that dismissed the action of the company.
The court affirmed the judgment, finding that the alleged trade secrets consisted of information that was already generally known or readily ascertainable. The court determined that the company failed to establish that the alleged trade secrets had any independent economic value or that the ideas were novel and unique. The court concluded that the company had already disclosed the alleged trade secrets to a third party with no expectation of privacy in that disclosure, thus precluding any claim of secrecy. The court found that the confidentiality agreement was void as in conflict with Wash. Rev. Code § 49.44.140(3) because it failed to include language that any confidentiality pertaining to an invention applied only to an invention for which the equipment, supplies, facilities, or trade secret information of the company were used to develop.