Not necessarily in California. The answer depends upon the unsettled issue whether California summary adjudication rules allow courts to dismiss some but not all of the asserted trade secrets before trial.
Trade secret claims brought by a technology company typically allege theft of not one but many trade secrets. The law recognizes as separate and specific trade secrets not just a particular technology, but also the underlying research, study, tests or investigation relating to this technology. For example, in Perlan Therapeutics, Inc. v. Superior Court, 178 Cal. App. 4th 1333, 1345 n.10 (2009), the court found that “Perlan’s eight purported trade secrets are: ‘(1) the Charles Invention, (2) Perlan’s Protein Multimerization Process, (3) Perlan’s novel idea [involving sialidase to] create a drug to combat the flu, and (4) all related research, (5) development, (6) advancements, (7) improvements and (8) processes related thereto.’”
Each of the numerous alleged trade secrets must satisfy certain requirements before they are deemed protectable in the eyes of the law. A trade secret must be described with sufficient particularity and have independent economic value derived from having been kept secret. And even if a particular trade secret is deemed legally protectable, there is no actionable theft (misappropriation) unless the trade secret has been improperly acquired, used or disclosed.
It is very rare that all trade secrets asserted at the beginning of a case satisfy all the requirements. There often are many clunkers among the asserted secrets and this is sussed out through the development of the case leading up to the trial. Furthermore, the identity of the bad trade secrets is or at least should be quite clear to the parties and the court following expert discovery, and in some cases even earlier in discovery. Limiting trial to those trade secrets that have some basis in law or fact can save the parties hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney and expert fees and costs otherwise incurred to prosecute or defend the bad trade secrets on top those that might have some merit. Precious and scarce court resources are saved for resolving legitimately asserted trade secrets (and are not diluted or wasted on resolving the bad ones).
In California, it may not be possible to obtain partial judgment on some but not all asserted trade secrets. Lawsuits brought in California court for misappropriation of trade secrets under California law (California Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Civ. Code, § 3426 et seq.) are governed by state procedural rules for summary judgement and summary adjudication. Code Civ. Proc., § 437c subd. (a) (summary judgment) and (f) (summary adjudication). Summary judgement terminates the entire action. Summary adjudication is directed to some but not all “causes of action,” such that following entry of summary adjudication the case proceeds to trial on the remaining causes of action. You therefore can’t get summary judgment on some but not all trade secret claims, but you might get summary adjudication if the challenged trade secret claim is deemed a “cause of action” within the meaning of the rule. Continue Reading Can You Get Partial SJ on Some But Not All Trade Secrets?