Getty Images Inc v. Motamedi

Filing 36

ORDER the Court converts part of the previously issued temporary restraining order (TRO) into a preliminary injunction; joint status report due within a week by Judge Richard A Jones. (RS)

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1 THE HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 GETTY IMAGES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Case No. 2:16-cv-1892 10 Plaintiff, 11 12 13 ORDER vs. ROXANNE MOTAMEDI, an individual, 14 Defendant. 15 The Court held a hearing on this matter on January 12, 2017. The Court heard 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 testimony from Defendant Roxanne Motamedi. Upon review of the briefs and after hearing arguments and testimony from the parties, the Court converts part of the previously issued temporary restraining order (TRO) into a preliminary injunction, as outlined below. Dkt. # 20. In order to obtain preliminary relief, a party “must establish that [it] is likely to succeed on the merits, that [it] is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in [its] favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Am. Trucking Ass’ns, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 559 F.3d 1046, 1052 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008)). “In addition, a ‘preliminary injunction is appropriate when a plaintiff demonstrates that serious questions going to the merits were raised and the balance of 28 ORDER - 1 1 hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff's favor,’ provided the plaintiff also demonstrates 2 that irreparable harm is likely and that the injunction is in the public interest.” Andrews 3 v. Countrywide Bank, NA, 95 F. Supp. 3d 1298, 1300 (W.D. Wash. 2015) (quoting 4 Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1134-35 (9th Cir. 2011)). 5 The Court previously found that these criteria were met, and new facts and argument 6 since verify that this was the correct assessment. First, there is clear evidence submitted to 7 the Court pursuant to the parties’ expedited discovery and summarized in Getty’s briefs that 8 demonstrate Ms. Motamedi accessed and utilized information solely derived during her 9 employment with Getty. Second, if the Court does not convert the TRO into a preliminary 10 injunction, then Ms. Motamedi may continue to access Getty’s confidential information 11 causing harm to Getty that will not be relieved through monetary damages. Third, Ms. 12 Motamedi is able to work in a new position in her industry. Her only restriction is to refrain 13 from utilizing the information described in this Order. Accordingly, the balance of equities 14 tips in Getty’s favor. Finally, it is in the public interest for courts to protect confidential 15 information and trade secrets under the circumstances presented in cases such as this one. 16 The purpose of the January 12, 2017 hearing, in part, was to allow Ms. Motamedi the 17 opportunity to present evidence in support of her defenses and to argue that the balance of 18 equities tipped in her favor. Indeed, Ms. Motamedi argued that the balance of hardships 19 tipped in her favor because she is effectively barred from pursuing work in her field. This is 20 not the case. Washington law supports the idea that client lists—whether in tangible form 21 or memorized—are protected trade secrets. The Washington Supreme Court specifically 22 found that 23 As a general rule, an employee who has not signed an 24 agreement not to compete is free, upon leaving employment, to 25 engage in competitive employment. In so doing, the former 26 employee may freely use general knowledge, skills, and 27 experience acquired under his or her former employer. 28 ORDER - 2 1 However, the former employee, even in the absence of an 2 enforceable covenant not to compete, remains under a duty not 3 to use or disclose, to the detriment of the former employer, 4 trade secrets acquired in the course of previous employment. 5 Where the former employee seeks to use the trade secrets of the 6 former employer in order to obtain a competitive advantage, 7 then competitive activity can be enjoined or result in an award 8 of damages 9 Ed Nowogroski Ins., Inc. v. Rucker, 971 P.2d 936, 941–42 (Wash. 1999). Therefore, Ms. 10 Motamedi is enjoined from utilizing Getty’s client lists in any way, including through the 11 use of her own memory. Though it should be clear, the Court reiterates that Ms. Motamedi 12 may not divulge this information to Silverhub. 13 Washington courts recognize the Restatement (Second) of Agency. See Kieburtz & 14 Assocs., Inc. v. Rehn, 842 P.2d 985, 988 (Wash. Ct. App. 1992) (noting that Washington 15 “courts have referenced the Restatement (Second) of Agency in many prior cases, and it 16 cannot be argued that the Restatement is irrelevant to decisions made in this jurisdiction.”). 17 According to the Restatement (Second) of Agency, employees may prepare to compete 18 prior to resignation, but they may not actively solicit customers or use confidential 19 information before resignation. Restatement (Second) of Agency § 393 (1958). Therefore, 20 to preserve the status quo, Ms. Motamedi is enjoined from contacting any of Getty’s 21 employees or freelancers that she had contacted prior to her resignation with regard to 22 joining Silverhub. This prohibition will remain in effect until November 7, 2017, which is 23 twelve months from the date of Ms. Motamedi’s resignation. 24 Ms. Motamedi argued that allowing Getty to completely “wipe” her devices was a 25 draconian measure. The Court agrees in part. The Court places the onus on Ms. Motamedi 26 to identify the information on her phones and computers that is personal to her and 27 unrelated to the current dispute. The Court orders Ms. Motamedi to identify this 28 ORDER - 3 1 information on any phone or computer she used in the course of her employment with 2 Getty. Ms. Motamedi shall then turn over all of these devices along with the list of the 3 identified personal information to an agreed upon neutral third party who will delete any 4 information that Ms. Motamedi has not identified as personal. The parties shall direct the 5 neutral third party to image the devices after this process so that Ms. Motamedi may 6 confirm with Getty that its confidential information and trade secrets have been removed 7 from her devices. The Court requires the parties to file a joint status report within one week 8 from the date of this Order confirming that this process has been completed. 9 The Local Rules authorize the Court to “order the parties to engage in mediation . . ., 10 and may schedule the required steps so as to maximize the prospects of early settlement.” 11 W.D. Wash. Local Rules LCR 39.1(c). Though the Court will not order the parties into 12 mediation at this time, it strongly encourages the parties to consider such a path for this 13 litigation. 14 15 Dated this 19th day of January, 2017. 16 A 17 18 The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER - 4

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