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

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

 

RULE:

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.

FACTS:

Photographers were hired by an unknown third party to take aerial photographs of new construction at a company's plant. The company subsequently filed suit against the photographers for misappropriation of trade secrets and alleged that the photographers had wrongfully obtained photographs revealing plaintiff's trade secrets, which they then sold to the undisclosed third party. The photographers moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The company filed a motion to compel an answer, and the photographers moved for summary judgment. The court denied the photographers' motions, but granted the company's motion to compel. The photographers moved for an interlocutory appeal of the trial court's judgment against them.

ISSUE:

Was aerial photography, from whatever altitude, an improper method of discovering trade secrets exposed during construction of a company's plant?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court held that the company had a valid cause of action to prohibit the photographers 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 the company's plant. Accordingly, the decision of the trial court was affirmed, and the case remanded for proceedings on the merits.

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