North Dakota Appeals Court Affirms Trade Secret Win for Houston Oil & Gas Companies

Jul 21, 2015, 13:53 ET from Gruber Hurst Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP

DALLAS, July 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the determination by a federal district court in North Dakota that Australia-based Macquarie Bank Ltd. misappropriated confidential information the company received as part of the collateral on a loan to develop oil and gas properties that included reserves in North Dakota's Bakken Shale formation.

Attorneys with the Dallas-based law firm Gruber Hurst Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP represented three Houston-based oil and gas companies and their owner, Bradley Knickel, in the case which involved five years of litigation and was tried in 2013.

Although Macquarie originally sued the companies, those claims were dismissed and only the counterclaims against Macquarie for misappropriation of trade secrets reached trial. Judge Daniel L. Hovland of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota ruled that Macquarie unlawfully used and disclosed trade secrets to determine the development potential of the companies' oil and gas leases and to acquire other leases in the vicinity.

On July 17, a three-judge 8th Circuit panel affirmed Judge Hovland's dismissal of Macquarie's claims and upheld the $2.3 million award of damages, prejudgment interest and attorneys' fees in favor of the oil and gas companies.

"This is an unprecedented claim for misappropriation of trade secrets against a major international bank, which initially loaned money to fund the project but later used confidential trade secrets to compete with its borrower," says Gruber Hurst Elrod attorney David W. Elrod, counsel for Mr. Knickel and his companies. "It's gratifying that the 8th Circuit also found Macquarie's conduct to be 'willful and malicious.'"

Mr. Knickel and his companies also were represented by the firm's Worthy Walker and Hayley C. Ellison, as well as local counsel Ronald H. McLean of the Serkland Law Firm of Fargo, N.D.

The case is Macquarie Bank Limited v. Bradley D. Knickel, et al., No. 14-1683.

Gruber Hurst Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP represents clients in complex commercial litigation in Texas and across the nation. The firm's experience includes litigation involving energy, contract disputes, pipeline construction, partnership dissolutions, fiduciary matters, labor and employment, securities and shareholder disputes, intellectual property, bankruptcy and other business and commercial cases. Clients include leading companies and individuals as both defendants and plaintiffs across a broad range of industries.

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