Pitching Trade Secrets Away, More Acres Sought for CRP, and other Legal News | Cape Law Firm
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MLB Pitcher claims trade secret theft by Astros
An intriguing lawsuit filed by a former major league pitcher is testing the boundaries of what qualifies as a trade secret. During the 2017 season, the Houston Astros were “stealing” pitching signs with a camera feed set up in center field which allowed them to alert their batters by banging a trash can in the dugout. Pitching signs are coded hand signals made by a catcher to let the pitcher know which pitch to throw. The catcher shields the signals from view to prevent the opposing team from determining the pitch.
Mike Bolsinger’s last outing as a major league pitcher was in August 2017 against the Astros, when his dismal performance of allowing 4 runs, 4 hits, and 3 walks in 29 pitches caused the Toronto Blue Jays to send him back to the minors and drop him at the end of the season. Bolsinger’s lawsuit claims that the Astros’ sign-stealing cost him his job as a major league pitcher. At the center of Bolsinger’s lawsuit is the allegation that the pitching signs were trade secrets under Texas trade secrets law which were stolen by the Astros when they were relayed to the batter.
Trade secrets can be quite broad – essentially any commercially valuable information that is kept secret and the owner takes reasonable steps to protect can be a trade secret. But can a hand signal from a catcher to a pitcher qualify as a trade secret? What if the signals can be seen on television or by fans in the stands? If Bolsinger prevails, will other teams that lost to the Astros in 2017 also have a claim? The court will certainly have some interesting questions to answer as this case moves forward.
USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program struggling to meet acreage goals
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), one of USDA’s largest conservation programs for private land, has been struggling increase participation and to keep acres enrolled. CRP pays landowners to remove land from agricultural production in exchange for long-term government rental payments. The program was launched in the mid-1980s to take sensitive land our of production and reduce surplus commodities. The Biden administration has pushed to expand the number of acres enrolled to the 25 million cap authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill as part of its climate change initiatives. However, many producers are still reluctant to participate, even in areas that are facing dire water shortages, because the rental payments are not enough to replace the income from keeping the land in production. In an effort to spur additional acreage enrollment, Ag Secretary Vilsack recently launched additional monetary incentives for climate-smart practices and increased the payment rates on some acres.