AirFacts Inc. v. Amezaga (P)

In this breach-of-contract and trade-secrets misappropriation case, the appellant company’s primary product is an auditing software that analyzes ticket fares for airlines and travel agencies to ensure tickets are sold for the appropriate price. It sued a former employee who subsequently worked for an airline.

The appellant didn’t abandon its claim related to its ex-employee’s alleged retention of documents upon his departure. Its failure to address this specific claim in its closing argument was, at best, ambiguous as to its intention to abandon the claim. The district court was wrong to hold otherwise.

However, the appellant’s work at the airline was not competing or similar to his services for the appellant under the contract, because his duties had distinct purposes and end recipients. Whereas his duties for the appellant related to ticket-price audits for the seller, his duties for the airline are directed toward passenger refunds. Thus, the district court correctly held that the employee didn’t breach his contract in this regard.

As to trade secrets, the district court erred in finding that certain company documents were not trade secrets because they were an “overview” of publicly available information. The documents contain some information not readily available to outsiders, organized carefully in a way that increased the appellant’s business efficiency; the appellant also took reasonable steps to keep the documents private. Since these documents were trade secrets, the misappropriation claim is remanded for further consideration.

Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

AirFacts Inc. v. Amezaga (P), No. 17-2092, Nov. 20, 2018. 4th Cir. (Agee) from DMD at Greenbelt (Chasanow).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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