United States: D.C. Court Addresses Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine For The First Time, Leaves Open Possibility For Future Use In Trade Secret Litigation

Addressing the "inevitable disclosure doctrine" for the first time, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia's recent decision in Info. Strategies, Inc. v. Dumosch1 left open the possibility of the doctrine's use in establishing trade secret misappropriation claims.  A shorthand method of proof, the inevitable disclosure doctrine creates an inference that a former employee will inevitably disclose trade secrets while working in similar employment with a competitor.  Although the Info. Strategies court did not fully adopt the doctrine, the court suggested a degree of lenience at the pleading stage, specifically stating that "[the plaintiff employer] may not even have to allege the misappropriation of a specific trade secret" in its complaint.  

The Case

Information Strategies, Inc. (InfoStrat) provides consulting services to public entities and private companies, a significant portion of which is dedicated to consultation regarding certain customer relationship management (CRM) software.  For five years, InfoStrat employed the defendant employee, who gained knowledge of CRM customization while on the job.  The former employee executed a Non-Disclosure/Non-Compete Agreement (the Agreement) with InfoStrat, which prohibited him from providing comparable services to any InfoStrat competitor in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  It further required that he refrain from disclosing any technical knowledge, inventions, or trade secrets belonging to the company during his employment and at all times afterwards. 

In December of 2012, the employee resigned from InfoStrat and took a job with a consulting firm. InfoStrat alleged that prior to his resignation, it negotiated to work with the consulting firm on a project for the Veterans Administration (VA), whereby modified CRM software would be integrated with other VA information technology systems.  InfoStrat modified the software for the VA in the past, and alleged that a VA employee suggested to the consultant that it hire InfoStrat to assist in the project.  This never ended up happening. 

In a meeting with the consulting firm a month after the employee resigned, InfoStrat was informed that it would not be hired for the project.   At the same meeting, the employee allegedly made clear that he was working on CRM matters for the consulting firm, and that he specifically worked on the VA project that InfoStrat lost.  InfoStrat further alleged that the employee disclosed proprietary information, including InfoStrat's coding template, the architecture it used for specific projects, and the specialized manner in which InfoStrat utilized its employees. 

InfoStrat filed suit against the employee, asserting claims of breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets which alleged that he was hired by the consulting firm for his knowledge of CRM customization and to work on the VA project.  This, InfoStrat alleged, allowed the new employer to sidestep contracting with InfoStrat.  InfoStrat filed the lawsuit in federal court based on diversity of citizenship.  The employee filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that the amount in controversy was less than $75,000.  In the context of this question over whether InfoStrat could recover the jurisdictional amount of damages, the court addressed inevitable disclosure.

The Decision

The court initially noted the employee's high burden of demonstrating "to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount."  It first addressed whether InfoStrat satisfied its amount in controversy by virtue of its claim for breach of contract, and found that it did, noting the potential value of the employee's labor to InfoStrat and its potential loss of business in the Washington, D.C. area as a result of his defection to a competitor.  

The court then turned to InfoStrat's misappropriation of trade secrets claim and the value of the potentially disclosed trade secrets.  The employee argued that InfoStrat failed to allege the disclosure of any trade secrets.  The court disputed this, pointing to InfoStrat's allegations regarding its coding template, its architectures for specific projects, and the specialized manner in which InfoStrat utilized its employees. 

Not stopping there, the court than specifically confronted the employee's argument that InfoStrat never alleged misappropriation of a specific trade secret.   Perhaps opening a door for future reliance, the court stated that "the inevitable disclosure doctrine allows a plaintiff to prove trade secret misappropriation by demonstrating that defendant's new employment will inevitably lead them to rely on plaintiff's trade secrets."  It noted that while the doctrine had been adopted by a number of other states, it was unaware of any District of Columbia courts addressing it, and held that it therefore "[could not] say as a matter of legal certainty that the inevitable disclosure doctrine would not apply in this case."  And because it could not rule out the application of inevitable disclosure, it "[could not] conclude that a hypothetical failure to allege the disclosure of a specific trade secret is relevant." 

Takeaways from the Decision 

While Info. Strategies, Inc. v. Dumosch falls short of outright adoption of the doctrine, the fact the court was not persuaded by the defendant's argument that the claim failed for want of alleging specific trade secrets is not insignificant: the court certainly could have, but did not, elect to follow a number of jurisdictions that explicitly have declined to adopt inevitable disclosure.2 Thus, the decision conceivably opens the door, at least at the pleading stage, for an inevitable disclosure claim to survive discovery.  

While inevitable disclosure is a useful shortcut, employers are best served by collecting as much evidence as possible whenever an employee has potentially stolen proprietary information.  Such an employee's company computer or electronic storage devices should be preserved for forensic examination, which can provide the employee's digital footprint as he or she departed for a competitor.   The departing employee's emails should also be preserved.  And, suspicious activity or statements should be brought to the attention of the employer's counsel so that such information can be incorporated into any resulting complaints, affidavits, or discovery requests.  Nothing is more inevitable than direct proof.


1. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16174 (D.D.C. Feb. 10, 2014).

2. See, e.g., Whyte v. Schlage Lock Co., 101 Cal. App. 4th 1443, 125 Cal. Rptr. 2d 277 (2002); Holton v. Physician Oncology Services, 2013 Ga. LEXIS 414 (May 6, 2013);  LeJeune v. Coin Acceptors, Inc, 849 A.2d 451, 471 (Md. 2004).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.