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Greenpeace, Inc. v. Dow Chem. Co.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 21, 2014

GREENPEACE, INC., APPELLANT,
v.
THE DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, ET AL., APPELLEES

Argued April 9, 2014

Page 1054

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1055

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-8036-11). (Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Trial Judge).

Emmy L. Levens, with whom Kit A. Pierson, Victoria S. Nugent, John P. Relman and Reed N. Colfax were on the brief, for appellant.

Gregory Silbert, with whom Steven A. Tyrrell and David J. Lender were on the brief, for appellee The Dow Chemical Company.

Lori Alvino McGill, with whom Abid R. Qureshi, John Cooper, Katherine Gigliotti, and Stephen P. Barry were on the brief, for appellee Ketchum, Inc.

Mark Emery, with whom Richard C. Smith, Tracy S. DeMarco, and Matthew H. Kirtland were on the brief, for appellee Sasol North America, Inc.

Tina M. Maiolo, Paul J. Maloney, and Alexander M. Gormley were on the brief for appellee Dezenhall Resources, Ltd.

Brynja M. Booth, Sarah M. Everhart, and David R. Thompson were on the brief for appellees Timothy Ward, Jay Bly, Michael Mika, and George Ferris.

Alan L. Hirsch, Lynne Bernabei, and Alan R. Kabat were on the brief for amici curiae.

Before BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY and THOMPSON, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 1056

Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judge :

This case involves alleged corporate espionage, and the issue of whether a corporation has a claim for trespass or conversion against another for rummaging through the corporation's trash in search of " trade secrets" and other confidential information. Appellant Greenpeace, Inc. (" Greenpeace" ) filed suit against appellees,[1] claiming that they conspired and engaged in various forms of unlawful corporate espionage with the intent to discover and undermine Greenpeace's environmental campaigns. The trial court granted appellees' motions to dismiss Greenpeace's claims of trespass to common areas of the office buildings in which it was a tenant, invasion of privacy by intrusion of its private concerns, offices, and staff, and conversion of its confidential information.[2] On appeal, Greenpeace argues that the trial court erred in dismissing these claims because: (1) Greenpeace has a possessory interest in the common areas of the office buildings in which it was a tenant; (2) appellees improperly intruded on Greenpeace's office and staff; and (3) the trial court erred in declining to recognize a claim of conversion of the intangible information contained in the documents taken by appellees from its trash. However Greenpeace's factual allegations may be regarded, Greenpeace's legal arguments cannot prevail as a matter of law, and therefore we affirm the dismissal.[3]

I. Factual Background

Greenpeace is a nonprofit corporation headquartered in ...


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