Hooked Media Group, Inc. v. Apple Inc., 55 Cal. App. 5th 323 (2020)

Hooked Media, a startup company that Apple expressed interest in acquiring, sued Apple after Apple passed on the deal but three of Hooked’s most important employees (including two engineers and the Chief Technical Officer) left to work for Apple. Hooked sued for fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets, interference with contract and related claims. The trial court granted summary judgment to Apple, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the fraud claim failed because the alleged misrepresentations by Apple all involved future events, not past or existing facts. As for the trade secrets claim, the Court held that evidence that the former employees may have had protected information in their possession is not sufficient to establish that Apple improperly acquired or used it. Further, just because there was evidence suggesting that the former engineers “drew on knowledge and skills they gained from Hooked to develop a product for [Apple]” does not mean there was a misappropriation of trade secrets, citing California’s rejection of the “inevitable disclosure” doctrine. Nor did Apple’s production of Hooked’s trade secret information in response to discovery requests show that Apple acquired trade secrets by improper means. Finally, the Court held that “California’s emphasis on employee mobility and freedom to compete counsels against a finding that the CTO’s self-serving efforts to land a position with Apple were a breach of fiduciary duty.” See also Brown v. TGS Mgmt. Co., 2020 WL 6634990 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020) (arbitrator exceeded his power in issuing an award enforcing provisions of an employment agreement that illegally restricted a former employee’s right to work in violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 16600).

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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.