This is a continuation of part 3, which can be found here.

Two additional classes of torts are similar to or related to trade-secret misappropriation – idea misappropriation and claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. §1030).


Idea Misappropriation

Another class of torts that are similar to the tort of trade-secret misappropriation are idea misappropriation claims. Idea misappropriation involves the theft of ideas that might not fall within the definition of trade secrets.

A considerable body of case law directed to idea misappropriation has been developed in California around the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, the determination of damages has not been uniform for this type of tort.

In Stanley v. CBS, Inc., 221 P.2d 73 (Cal. 1950), the plaintiff was awarded $35,000.00 based upon the estimated value of his idea. In Golding v. R.K.O. Pictures, Inc., 221 P.2d 95 (Cal. 1950), the authors of a plagiarized stage play were awarded $25,000.00 in damages after the play was converted into a motion picture screenplay.

Some courts have awarded damages based upon the number of times the idea has been used. Donahue v. Ziv Television Programs, Inc., 54 Cal. Rptr. 130 (Cal. Ct. App. 1966); Donahue v. United Artists Corp., 83 Cal. Rptr. 131, 135–36 (Cal. Ct. App. 1969).

Other courts have based the award on profits. See, e.g., Landsberg v. Scrabble Crossword Game Players, Inc., 802 F.2d 1196 (9th Cir. 1986); Buchwald v. Paramount Pictures Corp., No. C 706083, 1990 Cal. App. LEXIS 634 (Cal. App. Dep’t Super. Ct. Jan. 31, 1992).


Claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act allows plaintiffs to obtain two types of monetary remedies that are referred to as “damages” or “losses.” See 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(c). Damages are defined as “any impairment to the integrity or availability of data, a program, a system, or information.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(8). Losses are defined as “any reasonable cost to any victim, including the cost of responding to an offense, conducting a damage assessment and restoring the data, program, system or information to its condition prior to the offense and any revenue lost, cost incurred or other consequential damages incurred because of interruption of service.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(11).