JustMed, Inc. v. Byce, 600 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2010)

Michael Byce developed the source code used in the software of a digital audio larynx device that JustMed owned. JustMed contended that Byce was its employee when he developed the code and that the code, therefore, belonged to JustMed under the work-for-hire doctrine of the federal Copyright Act. Byce, however, contended he was an independent contractor and that he expected to receive shares in JustMed upon transferring ownership of the source code to JustMed. The district court found that Byce was an employee of JustMed when he wrote the software and that JustMed owned the copyright to the software under the work-for-hire doctrine. The district court also found Byce liable for misappropriation of JustMed’s trade secrets. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment regarding violation of the Copyright Act, noting that although “JustMed [as a start-up company] did not comply with federal and state employment or tax laws… the remedy for these failings lies not with denying the firm its intellectual property but with enforcing the relevant laws.” However, the Court reversed the judgment insofar as the district court had determined Byce had violated Idaho’s version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act because Byce had neither “used” nor “disclosed” JustMed’s trade secrets. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case for the district court to determine whether and in what amount JustMed could recover damages on its conversion and breach of fiduciary duty claims and whether an injunction to prevent further misappropriation was warranted. See also Thomas Weisel Partners LLC v. BNP Paribas, 2010 WL 1267744 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (company’s director breached fiduciary duty by facilitating en masse defection of 26 employees to competitor).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.