Texas Supreme Court to Decide NOV Defendant’s Right to Hear Evidence in Trade Secret Dispute
December 2, 2015
HOUSTON – In a case with potential implications for other trade secret disputes, the Texas Supreme Court will decide whether a plaintiff has the right to exclude the company it is suing from hearing key evidence accusing it of trade secret theft.
A Schlumberger Ltd. subsidiary is suing a former manager and the company he joined, National Oilwell Varco LP. During a hearing, the subsidiary, M-I LLC, operating as M-I SWACO, asked the trial court judge to remove its former employee so that he wouldn’t hear proprietary information.
NOV attorney John Zavitsanos of Ahmad Zavitsanos Anaipakos Alavi & Mensing PC, or AZA, said the argument was nonsensical since Schlumberger was accusing its former employee of stealing that very information. Barring him from hearing the evidence also would deprive him of due process, Mr. Zavitsanos said.
The trial judge agreed, ruling in NOV’s favor. The judge then issued a gag order that barred the NOV employee from disclosing or using any of M-I SWACO’s trade secret information. M-I SWACO appealed, and oral arguments are set for Jan. 13 before the Texas Supreme Court.
“From a basic due process standpoint, the position Schlumberger is taking is they get to try this case to a Star Chamber,” Mr. Zavitsanos told Law360 in an article headlined “Texas High Court Takes Up Schlumberger Trade Secrets Case” (subscription required).
Texas Lawyer also wrote about the case in “Schlumberger’s Suit over Alleged Trade Secret Theft Goes to Texas Supreme Court” (subscription required). In that article, Mr. Zavitsanos characterized Schlumberger’s argument this way: “Behind Door Number 1 is a trade secret, which you stole. I will not tell you what it is or what you did exactly. You owe me millions. Just take my word for it.”
Also representing NOV are AZA lawyers Elizabeth Pannill Fletcher and Neal Sarkar, and Wright & Close LLP lawyers Thomas Wright and Bradley Snead. The case is In re: M-I LLC, No. 14-1045.
Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized in Chambers USA 2015 among the best in Texas commercial law; U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms; Texas Lawyer as the 2015 Litigation Department of the Year and Law360 as a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA both one of the country’s best in client service and one of the most feared. Read more at http://www.azalaw.com.