Congress is considering the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which would create a new federal trade secret civil cause of action. The Act includes a quirky and unprecedented ex parte procedure for trade secret owners to obtain a seizure order. The seizure provision applies in, at best, a narrow set of circumstances, and it oddly attempts to protect intangible trade secrets by seizing chattels. Despite procedural safeguards, the seizure provision also enables anti-competitive misuse.
More generally, the fact-based disputes that inevitably must be resolved in trade secret litigation make trade secrets an especially poor basis for ex parte actions. As a result, we should be nervous about the proposed seizure provision in the Defend Trade Secret Act—and all other ex parte seizure procedures in trade secret cases.