Utah Affirms PacifiCorp Maliciously Misappropriated Developer’s Trade Secrets

In 2012, a Utah jury found that after detailed negotiations and a series of counteroffers PacifiCorp “willfully and maliciously misappropriated a trade secret from USA Power” in order to build a power plant project in Mona, Utah without the project’s original developer. The jury awarded more than $133 million in damages. On May 16, 2016, the Utah Supreme Court affirmed the jury’s conclusions.  

According to court documents, PacifiCorp was negotiating with USA Power under a nondisclosure agreement, but decided to terminate those negotiations and issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) instead. USA Power submitted the project that it had been working on with PacifiCorp. PacifiCorp submitted a bid for its own project, which was very similar to USA Power’s proposal. After PacifiCorp awarded itself the winning bid, it even hired USA Power’s attorney to assist it obtaining the necessary water rights for the project.

USA Power filed a complaint alleging PacifiCorp breached the terms of its nondisclosure agreement and violated the Utah Uniform Trade Secrets Act. USA Power argued that its vision for the plant was a trade secret. This vision included: 1) the technical size, location, configuration, economics, engineering and assets of the proposed project; 2) the business strategies, goals, and plans describing cost and profitability; and (3) the first-to-market advantage in obtaining financing and blocking potential competitors. After a five-week trial, the jury found for USA Power.

PacifiCorp appealed the decision arguing that USA Power’s vision was not a trade secret because various details about the project were publicly disclosed, but did not appeal the jury’s finding of misappropriation. The Utah Supreme Court disagreed with PacifiCorp.



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