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Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Richards Manufacturing Co.

April 26, 2010

THOMAS & BETTS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHARDS MANUFACTURING CO., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chesler, U.S.D.J.

OPINION & ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the motion titled "motion for evidentiary rulings" by Defendants Richards Manufacturing Company and Glenn Luzzi (collectively, "Richards"). Despite having given their motion a title indicating that they seek evidentiary rulings, Defendants actually seek declaratory rulings that: 1) Plaintiff Thomas & Betts Corporation ("T&B") has not preserved an aggregation argument with respect to the items of confidential information it alleges to have been misappropriated; and 2) T&B is estopped from relitigating certain issues and claims based on the law of the case. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied in part and granted in part.

This application follows the decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which reversed and remanded a grant of summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiff's claim for misappropriation of confidential information.

I. Has T&B preserved an aggregation argument?

In summary, Richards' argument is this: 1) T&B argued to the Third Circuit that the combination of the items of confidential information -- i.e., the items in aggregate -- was protectible; 2) T&B did not assert such an argument in the Final Pretrial Order ("FPO"); and 3) T&B should be barred from making such an argument at trial.

Richards here seeks to circumvent the Third Circuit's instructions to this Court, and invites this Court to disregard the Third Circuit's ruling. The Third Circuit stated:

With respect to the third of the Lamorte Burns factors, in evaluating whether T&B had a protectible interest in the information, the District Court should consider that the competitive value an employer ascribes to certain information may derive solely from its relation to other information, even when, taken in isolation, that information is neither novel nor unknown. We have explicitly recognized this principle in the context of New Jersey trade secret law, see Rohm & Haas Co. v. Adco Chemical Co., 689 F.2d 424, 433 (3d Cir. 1982), and it is equally relevant in the confidential information context.

Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Richards Mfg. Co., 342 Fed. Appx. 754, 760 (3d Cir. 2009). This is a clear instruction to this Court to consider an aggregation theory.*fn1 Richards does not argue to the contrary, nor could it.

Even if this were not viewed as a clear instruction -- and this Court understands it to be a clear instruction -- allowing Thomas & Betts to argue an aggregation theory is within the spirit of the Third Circuit's Opinion. This Court must follow the spirit as well as the letter of Third Circuit rulings:

It is axiomatic that on remand for further proceedings after decision by an appellate court, the trial court must proceed in accordance with the mandate and the law of the case as established on appeal. A trial court must implement both the letter and the spirit of the mandate, taking into account the appellate court's opinion and the circumstances it embraces.

Pardini v. Allegheny Intermediate Unit, 524 F.3d 419, 423 (3d Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).

The Third Circuit has thus already answered Richards' question about whether Thomas & Betts preserved an aggregation argument, and it has answered in the affirmative. If Richards believed that the Third Circuit's decision was in error, the remedy would have been to seek rehearing.*fn2 This Court will follow the Third Circuit's instructions on this issue. This Court concludes that Thomas & Betts has preserved an aggregation argument, as that argument has been formulated by the Third Circuit.

II. Is T&B estopped from relitigating certain issues?

Richards contends that T&B should be estopped from relitigating issues in six areas. As a general comment, the problem with Richards' position is that, while these issues may not fall obviously within the scope of the matters reversed by the Third Circuit, Richards fails to recognize the extent ...


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