Magic Leap Violates Laws Prohibiting Restraints on Employee Mobility Says Defendants

magic leapAs reported back in June, augmented reality startup, Magic Leap, filed a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit in the Northern District of California against two former high-level employees, Dr. Gary Bradski and Dr. Adrian Kaehler.  Magic Leap’s complaint alleges, among other things, that Bradski and Kaehler worked together for at least a year, while employed by Magic Leap, to create and develop plans for a new company using “Magic Leap’s intellectual property and Proprietary Technologies.”

Earlier this month, Bradski and Kaehler struck back against Magic Leap with a flurry of responsive filings.

First, in their Motion to Dismiss, the defendants allege that Magic Leap’s lawsuit “violates Dr. Bradski and Dr. Kaehler’s freedom to pursue independent consulting; in addition, California law prohibits restraints on employee mobility and ‘protects Californians and ensures that every citizen shall retain the right to pursue any lawful employment an enterprise of their choice.'”  The motion alleges that both Bradski and Kaehler were considered experts in computer vision and machine learning, and discussed starting a robotics company long before joining Magic Leap.  Moreover, according to the motion, both Bradski’s and Kaehler’s employment agreements with Magic Leap each provided that “he will be free to pursue independent consulting work.”  After their hiring, Magic Leap allegedly failed to allocate budget to Kaehler’s project, and “for Dr. Bradski’s part, he had been increasingly ostracized.”  In March and April 2016, Kaehler disclosed his plans to leave Magic Leap to work on a “noncompetitive project,” and both Kaehler and Bradski subsequently returned their computers and research to Magic Leap.

In terms of legal argument, the motion asserts that “Dr. Bradski’s and Dr. Kaehler’s skills and expertise, pre-dating employment, and their prior work combining machine vision, deep nets, and robotics cannot be any Magic Leap trade secret.”  In an interesting legal argument, Defendants also assert that the Defense of Trade Secrets Act claims should be barred because “all acts complained of occurred, were disclosed, and ceased prior to the [DTSA] going into effect on May 22, 2016.”

In addition to its Motion to Dismiss, Defendants each filed a Motion for Sanctions of Dismissal (“Rule 11 Motions”) against Magic Leap.  The Rule 11 Motions forcefully assert that Magic Leap filed a “baseless suit without reasonable inquiry; and for the improper purpose of harassing the defendants, staging a fishing expedition and smear campaign designed to paralyze and prevent defendants from any gainful employment.”  In addition to dismissal, defendants seek an award of attorneys’ fees which they claim are “justified and necessary for effective deterrence of future violations by Magic Leap and similarly-minded employers.”

Magic Leap has until September 12 to respond to Kaehler’s and Bradski’s Motions to Dismiss and Rule 11 Motions.  A hearing on the motions is scheduled for Wednesday, October 12, 2016.