Advanced Modular Sputtering, Inc. v. Superior Court, 132 Cal. App. 4th 826 (2005)

Within four years of being laid off from their jobs at Sputtered Films, Sergey Mishin and Rose Stuart-Curran started their own company (Advanced Modular Sputtering), which became a competitor of Sputtered. In its lawsuit against AMS, Sputtered alleged that Mishin and Curran had misappropriated its trade secrets in order to develop a competing “knock off” machine. In response to AMS’s motion for protective order, the trial court barred Sputtered from commencing discovery until it had identified with “reasonable particularity” the trade secret that was allegedly misappropriated. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 2019.210. The Court of Appeal held that the statutory requirement that the trade secret be identified before discovery can commence is not limited to discovery involving a Uniform Trade Secrets Act claim, but extends to related causes of action as well. The Court concluded, however, that Sputtered had adequately identified the trade secret in this case: “Where, as here, credible experts declare that they are capable of understanding the designation and of distinguishing the alleged trade secrets from information already known to persons in the field, the designation should…be considered adequate to permit discovery to commence.”