E. I. du Pont deNemours & Co. v. Christopher

431 F.2d 1012 (5th Cir. 1970)



To obtain knowledge of a process without spending the time and money to discover it independently is improper unless the holder voluntarily discloses it or fails to take reasonable precautions to ensure its secrecy.


Defendant photographers were hired by an unknown third party to take aerial photographs of new construction at plaintiff company's plant. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit against defendants, and alleged defendants had wrongfully obtained photographs revealing plaintiff's trade secrets, which they then sold to the undisclosed third party. Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiff filed a motion to compel an answer, and defendants moved for summary judgment. The court denied defendants' motions, but granted plaintiff's motion to compel. The decision of the trial court that plaintiff company had stated a claim for the misappropriation of its trade secrets was affirmed, where aerial photography was considered an improper method of discovering trade secrets, and the case was remanded for proceedings on the merits. A petition for rehearing was denied.


Did plaintiff assert a valid claim upon which relief can be granted? 




Plaintiff had a valid cause of action to prohibit defendants from improperly discovering its trade secret. The court further concluded that aerial photography, from whatever altitude, was an improper method of discovering the trade secrets exposed during construction of plaintiff's plant. Accordingly, the decision of the trial court was affirmed, and the case remanded for proceedings on the merits.

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