United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ERIC MILLER, an individual; and VIDBOTZ, LLC, a Washington limited liability company, Plaintiffs,
DEVIN NORRIS, an individual; and JUNE BUG LABS LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for a
Temporary Restraining Order. Dkt. # 3. Defendant opposes the
Motion (Dkt. # 18). Having considered the submissions of the
parties, the relevant portions of the record, and the
applicable law, the Court finds that oral argument is
unnecessary. For the reasons that follow, the Court
DENIES the Motion.
LLC, is a Washington-based company that “designs,
develops, and produces video and media content.” Dkt. #
1 at ¶ 7. The company was formed in April 2016 by
Plaintiff Eric Miller (“Mr. Miller”) and
Defendant Devin Norris (“Mr. Norris”).
Id. On August 25, 2016, Mr. Miller and Mr. Norris
entered into a Founders' Agreement, which purportedly
established their rights and responsibilities to Vidbotz and
to one another. Id. at ¶ 8. The Founders'
Agreement includes, among other things, non-compete and
confidentiality clauses, along with provisions assigning
ownership in intellectual property related to Vidbotz's
work to Vidbotz. Id.
allege that Mr. Norris violated the Founders' Agreement
when he formed a new competitor company, June Bug Labs, in
December 2018 and began pitching its services to
Vidbotz's clients. Dkt. # 1 at ¶ 28. According to
Plaintiffs, the products and services being offered by June
Bug Labs and Mr. Norris (collectively the
“Defendants”) are directly competitive with
Vidbotz in violation of the Founders' Agreement.
Id. at ¶ 30. For example, Plaintiffs allege
that June Bug Labs is marketing a “QR code
solution” that is “strikingly similar” to a
QR code interface solution that Mr. Norris had previously
pitched to Mr. Miller. Id. at ¶ 29. In
addition, Plaintiffs claim that Mr. Norris refuses to return
proprietary Vidbotz property in his possession, including the
passwords and access codes to Defendants' Electronic
Storage System containing Vidbotz intellectual property. Dkt.
# 1 at ¶¶ 60-61.
filed this action on October 14, 2019 alleging
misappropriation of trade secrets, violation of the Computer
Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), violation of the
Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), violation of
the Washington Consumer Protection Act (”CPA”),
and breach of contract. Dkt. # 1. The following day,
Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion for a Temporary
Restraining Order. Dkt. # 3. Defendants oppose the Motion.
Dkt. # 18.
restraining orders (“TRO”) are governed by the
same standard applicable to preliminary injunctions.
Stuhlbarg Int'l Sales Co. v. John D. Brush & Co.,
Inc. 240 F.3d 832, 839 n. 7 (9th Cir. 2001) (noting that
preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order
standards are “substantially identical”). A TRO
is an “extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded
upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such
relief.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council,
Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008). To obtain a TRO, Plaintiffs
must show that they are (1) likely to succeed on the merits,
(2) likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of
preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in their
favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest.
Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky, 586 F.3d 1109, 1127 (9th
ask the Court to issue a TRO enjoining Defendants from
accessing or using Vidbotz's trade secrets and other
confidential information, and from violating the non-compete
terms of the Founders' Agreement. Dkt. # 3. Plaintiffs
also ask the Court to require Defendants to return
Vidbotz's company property, including all access codes
and passwords to Vidbotz's accounts. Id.
Likelihood of Success on the Merits
parties' moving papers reveal numerous disputes of fact
that preclude the Court from determining Plaintiffs are
likely to prevail on the merits of their claims. With respect
to Plaintiffs' trade secrets and CPA claim, the parties
offer competing evidence regarding the existence of
Vidbotz's intellectual property. Plaintiffs claim that
Mr. Norris misappropriated Vidbotz intellectual property,
including the eBooks program and QR interface. Dkt. # 4 at
¶ 13. Defendants' view is that Vidbotz does not have
any intellectual property and that the technology referred to
by Plaintiffs is either publicly available or maintained by
third party vendors. Dkt. # 19 at ¶ 8. Similarly, with
respect to Plaintiffs' CFAA and SCA claim, the parties
dispute whether Mr. Norris' access to Vidbotz's
computer systems was “unauthorized.” Plaintiffs
argue that Mr. Norris was not “authorized to access or
download Vidbotz's data, files, records, or other
information onto any of Defendants' devices or
accounts” (Dkt. # 3 at 18), while Defendants argue that
Mr. Norris is a co-founder of Vidbotz, and as such “has
as much right as anyone to access Vidbotz's computer
system.” Dkt. # 18 at 12.
there are significant factual disputes regarding the
competitive nature of June Bug Labs, and whether Defendants
are “directly” competing with Vidbotz in
violation of the Founders' Agreement. Plaintiffs argue
that Mr. Norris and June Bug Labs are offering products and
services directly competitive with Vidbotz in violation of
the Founders' Agreement, including the QR interface
solution and eBooks technology. Dkt. # 4 at ¶ 13.
Defendants contend that June Bug Labs is not “directly
competing” with Vidbotz because it is offering a
different product, the eBooks platform rather than eBooks
content. Dkt. # 19 at ¶¶ 19-23. In addition, even
if June Bug Labs and Vidbotz are in direct competition,
Defendants argue that Mr. Norris satisfied his contractual
obligation when he disclosed June Bug Labs to Mr. Miller and
invited him to participate in the new entity. Dkt. # 18 at 9;
Dkt. # 19 at ¶¶ 24-25.
deciding a motion for preliminary injunction, the district
court is not bound to decide doubtful and difficult questions
of law or disputed questions of fact.” Int'l
Molders' and Allied Workers' Local Union No. 164 v.
Nelson, 799 F.2d 547, 551 (9th Cir. 1986) (internal
citations omitted). In addition, if substantial factual
disputes are presented, it may be inappropriate to grant
injunctive relief. See United Tactical Sys., LLC v. Real
Action Paintball, Inc., 2014 WL 6788310, at *8 (N.D.
Cal. Dec. 2, 2014) (“Perhaps UTS will ultimately be
able to demonstrate that it is the rightful owner of the
registered PepperBall mark, but claims under Section 32 of
the Lanham Act are reserved for ‘registrants' of
the mark, and at this point there are too many unresolved
issues and factual disputes for the Court to find that UTS
has demonstrated a likelihood of success that it is the
‘registrant' within the meaning of the Lanham
Act.”); Occupy Fresno v. Cty. of Fresno, 835
F.Supp.2d 849, 862 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (“To the extent
that there is a dispute of fact about this issue, it