State Law Can’t Protect Butterfly Valve from the Copyright Preemption Net

Ultraflo Corporation manufactures butterfly valves for use in the transportation industry. Ultraflo redesigned its Model 390 butterfly valve with the help of employee Thomas Mueller. Mueller left Ultraflo to work for Pelican Tank Parts, one of Ultraflo’s competitors. Pelican then produced a valve Ultraflo claimed was strikingly similar to Ultraflo’s own butterfly valve.

Ultraflo pursued its legal remedies, eventually suing Pelican and Mueller in federal court for state tort claims and copyright infringement. At trial, the jury rejected both Ultraflo’s trade secret and copyright claims. Ultraflo appealed the district court’s pretrial dismissal on preemption grounds of Ultraflo’s unfair competition by misappropriation claim. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling.

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