On December 10, 2018, a jury unanimously decided in favor of Navigato & Battin, LLP’s (“NavBat”) clients Dr. Linda Zhong and Enertrode, Inc. The case was filed by NavBat in California on Enertrode, Inc.’s claims against the defendants for breaching a contract, inducing a breach of contract, and misappropriating trade secrets. Defendants responded by filing a countersuit in Florida, alleging a number of claims including breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, and fraud. Defendants’ claims threatened Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc. with over $8 million in potential damages.
After successfully moving the defendants’ Florida case to California, defeating defendants’ attempt to move the California case to Florida, and more than two years of contentious litigation, NavBat tried the case to a jury in Oakland, California over a period of a month. The case was tried in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California before Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr.
The primary dispute in the case was whether technological advancements regarding electrode technology for energy storage devices made by Dr. Zhong during her employment with defendants belonged to Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc. or to the defendants. At the outset of Dr. Zhong’s employment, the parties had expressly agreed that advancements involving “electrode technology and manufacture” would belong to Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc. Despite this, defendants argued they were the rightful owners of the advancements, arguing that the technology actually related to Lithium Ion Capacitor technology, not electrode technology. The jury, however, found that Dr. Zhong and Enertrode were the rightful owners of the technology at issue. Based on Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc.’s ownership of these advancements, the jury found the defendants liable for misappropriation of this technology. Additionally, the jury found that the misappropriation by one of the individual defendants – a prominent Florida State University professor — was “willful and malicious,” exposing that defendant to further damages to be determined by Judge Gilliam.
For their part, the defendants claimed Dr. Zhong breached her employment contract and her fiduciary duty owed to them, and that Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc. fraudulently induced defendants to enter into a separate agreement, breached that agreement, intentionally interfered with a business opportunity, misappropriated trade secrets, committed civil theft, and violated the Florida Computer Abuse and Data Recovery Act. The jury found Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc. had not in fact committed any of these acts and were not subject to any liability to the defendants.
At the conclusion of trial, the jury unanimously found wholly in favor of Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc., awarding them a total of $2.6 million, and finding Dr. Zhong and Enertrode, Inc. free of any liability to defendants. On behalf of its clients, NavBat will be seeking additional damages, attorney’s fees, and costs from the defendants by way of post-trial motions before Judge Gilliam.
Navigato & Battin, LLP is an experienced business law firm. For over 20 years, Navigato & Battin, LLP has prosecuted and defended multi-million dollar lawsuits in both trial and appeal settings as well as alternative dispute resolution processes such as arbitration and mediation. The firm counsels corporate clients in dealing with their organizational, labor, and management issues and has represented both corporations and their principals in a variety of business disputes.