United States District Court, C.D. California
PATEL BURICA & ASSOCIATES, INC.
JASON LIN ET AL.
Present: The Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
(IN CHAMBERS) - DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No.
16-1, filed on November 12, 2019)
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
case concerns the alleged infringement of a structural
engineering firm's copyrighted designs, as well as the
alleged misappropriation of that firm's other
noncopyrighted trade secrets, by a former employee.
purpose of this motion, and unless stated otherwise, the
Court assumes the truth of the following allegations.
Plaintiff Patel Burica & Associates, Inc.
("PBA") is a structural engineering firm based in
Irvine, California. ECF No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ 2.
Defendant Jason Lin ("Lin") is a structural
engineer who was employed by PBA in 2006 as an intern, and
between 2011 and 2014 as a staff engineer. Id.
¶ 3. After leaving PBA, Lin joined a competing
engineering firm in Irvine and also formed a new entity based
in Arcadia, California-defendant JKL Structural Engineering,
Inc. ("JKL")-to provide private structural
engineering services to clients. Id. ¶¶ 4,
filed this action on September 25, 2019. Id. PBA
claims that it "created numerous copyright-protected
design details" for use in its structural plans, and
"registered the copyrights." Id. ¶ 5.
PBA refers to these unidentified design details as the
"Copyrighted Material," but does not explain what
these details comprise, what they relate to, or how they are
used. Id. PBA does not attach images of its
allegedly copyrighted designs, the copyright registrations,
or even the corresponding registration numbers. PBA also
claims that it separately, and at great cost, "developed
various trade-secret materials for use in its design
work," including "CAD files" that
"contain proprietary design details and embedded
algorithms to automate the design process," as well as
coded "spreadsheets used to conduct structural load
calculations." Id. PBA alleges that the trade
secrets "give PBA a competitive advantage in the
field," and are accordingly stored in secured and
access-restricted computer systems. Id. As an added
layer of precaution, PBA requires its employees to protect
the confidentiality of PBA's trade secrets as a term of
their employment agreement. Id.
alleges that Lin had access, including remote access, to the
PBA computer systems where the alleged copyrighted and trade
secret materials are stored. Id. ¶ 7. At some
point in 2019, PBA claims that it "discovered plans that
Lin/JKL had prepared for the construction of a new private
home in Arcadia." Id. ¶ 8. The discovered
plans are not described, or attached, to PBA's complaint.
However, according to PBA, the "detail drawings on the
plans are identical" to the copyrighted material that
Lin had access to while he was employed by PBA. Id.
On this basis, PBA alleges that Lin "took PBA's
Copyrighted Material and Trade Secrets prior to the end of
his employment with PBA in 2014," "us[ed] PBA's
property for his own professional and financial gain,"
and "intends to continue doing so in the future."
Id. ¶ 9. PBA claims that Lin's and
JKL's conduct unlawfully infringes on its copyrights
pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq., id *f¶
10-12, and violates anti-misappropriation provisions of the
California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (Cal. Civil Code
§§ 3426 et seq.) ("CUTSA"), id
Lin and XKL filed the instant motion to dismiss on November
12, 2019. See ECF No. 16-1 ("MTD"). PBA
filed an opposition on December 2, 2019. See ECF No. 19
("Opp."). Defendants filed their reply on December
9, 2019. See ECF No. 21 ("Reply").
carefully considered the parties' arguments, the Court
finds and concludes as follows.
motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in a
complaint. Under this Rule, a district court properly
dismisses a claim if "there is a 'lack of a
cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts
alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'"
Conservation Force v. Salazar. 646 F.3d 1240, 1242
(9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Bahsten v. Pacifica Police
Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988)).
"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his
'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twomblv, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations
omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level."
Id. (internal citations omitted).
considering a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court must
accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, as
well as all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them.
Pareto v. FDIC. 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998).
The complaint must be read in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors.
266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). However, "a court
considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by
identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a
complaint, they must be supported by factual
allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
679 (2009); see Moss v. United States Secret
Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) ("[F]or
a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the
non-conclusory 'factual content,' and reasonable
inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of
a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.").
Ultimately, "[determining whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense." Iqbal. 556 U.S.
general rule, leave to amend a complaint which has been
dismissed should be freely granted. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 15(a).
However, leave to amend may be denied when "the court
determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with
the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the
deficiency." Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well
Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986);
see also Eminence Capital LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316
F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (holding dismissal with
prejudice is appropriate only when the complaint could not be
saved by amendment).