Trade secret case in ED Pa involving scientists at GSK
The GSK technology that was involved:
The biopharmaceutical products being developed by GSK were designed to fight cancer and other serious diseases. One product under development was a monoclonal antibody (“mAB”) designed to link to HER3 receptors on human body cells. In certain forms of cancer, HER3 receptors are “overexpressed,” that is, human body cells contain too many of these receptors. This overexpression contributes to the development of cancer.
YU XUE, a/k/a “Joyce,” worked as a research scientist for GSK facility from June 2006 until January 2016. For a portion of that time period, YU XUE was a senior-level manager at GSK with oversight of two to three junior employees.
YU XUE e-mailed GSK trade secret and otherwise confidential information relating to a dozen or more products and numerous GSK processes from her GSK e-mail account to her personal account and then forwarded that trade secret information to TAO LI, YAN MEI, and others.
YU XUE was regarded as one of the top protein biochemists in the world. She has a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from the University of North Carolina and an undergraduate degree from Peking University in China. According to her resume, she was the HER3 project co-leader at GSK working on monoclonal antibody design. She previously worked on structure modeling and antibody protein purification. According to her resume, she has successfully humanized and patented at least four separate antibodies. Prior to working at GSK, she worked for six years at the University of North Carolina as a research analyst.
LUCY XI, a/k/a “Lu Xi,” was the wife of YAN MEI. LUCY XI worked as a scientist at GSK from July 14, 2008 until November 3, 2015.
Some of the material in question:
Document 35 was an internal GSK PowerPoint presentation titled “Anti-HER3 mAB” (monoclonal antibody) and identified a specific GSK antibody under development. Document 35 contained both GSK trade secret information and other confidential, but not trade secret, information. Document 35 contained GSK’s strategy for developing an anti-HER3 monoclonal antibody and information on a specific candidate for anti-HER3 for clinical trials. Document 35 outlined the development risks and opportunities of a specific anti-HER3 antibody candidate for GSK. Document 35 opined that this candidate “would provide GSK with [a] package similar to Herceptin/HercepTest that showed great therapeutic value to cancer patients.” It also provided the pre-clinical data in support of the candidate antibody and a thorough explanation of how it worked.
Among other things, federal law was implicated:
violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1832(a)(1), (a)(2), and (a)(3).
All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1832(a)(5).
UPDATE on 29 Feb 16, from the National Law Review:
Another advantage to pursuing trade secret protection is that it is often times easier to obtain an injunction for misappropriation under trade secret law. The chances of early success in seeking a preliminary injunction in a theft of trade secret litigation usually can be greater than in a patent infringement action. This is because, in the absence of a prior favorable court finding of infringement and validity of the same patent, courts may not be as willing to issue preliminary injunctions in relatively complex patent cases, thus allowing wrongdoers to continue infringing. However, courts might be more willing to issue a preliminary injunction in a trade secret case. Because of its potential to prevent wrongdoers from benefiting from a misappropriated technology, trade secret protection may be considered as a viable alternative or complement to protecting owners of emerging technology against infringement.
Of course, injunctions against folks in China are not particularly valuable.