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Posts in Trade Secrets

Other Barks & Bites, Friday, September 27: CAFC Partially Vacates PTAB Decision, Colarulli Appointed to Head LESI, and Copyright Office Seeks Comments on Music Modernization Act

This week in Other Barks & Bites: the Federal Circuit issued a precedential decision reversing the PTAB regarding proper primary reference and CBM review findings; USPTO Director Iancu told IPO Annual Meeting attendees that subject matter eligibility guidelines are working; an EPO-EUIPO report shows IP-intensive industries contribute nearly half of EU GDP; the producers of the Broadway musical Hamilton have filed a motion to dismiss copyright claims filed in connection with a museum exhibit; eBay CEO Devin Wenig stepped down; the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in the en banc rehearing of the “Stairway to Heaven” copyright case; the U.S. Copyright Office is seeking public comments regarding the blanket licensing structure under the Music Modernization Act; and Sandoz has moved forward with a PTAB challenge on patent claims covering AbbVie’s Imbruvica.

The Dark Side of Secrecy: What Theranos Can Teach Us About Trade Secrets, Regulation and Innovation

The spectacular failure of blood-testing firm Theranos is the subject of a riveting book, Bad Blood by investigative reporter John Carreyrou, and an engaging documentary, “The Inventor” on HBO, focusing on Elizabeth Holmes, the once-celebrated wunderkind who dropped out of Stanford at age 19 to “change the world” with a device that would perform hundreds of diagnostic tests with a few drops of blood from a finger stick. It’s a story made for Hollywood (Jennifer Lawrence will play Holmes in the forthcoming movie), filled with lies, deception, threats and sex, set in a Silicon Valley startup. But even the Theranos story doesn’t mean that trade secret law is inherently dangerous. Consider Apple, one of the world’s most secretive companies. (Holmes famously modeled her clothing and business habits after Steve Jobs.) Apple has consistently used NDAs and secrecy management to protect products under development, to great effect when they are ultimately unveiled, all without touting non-existent technology. And it’s easy to imagine how Theranos might never have happened if investors and business partners had been less credulous and more insistent to understand the technology.

Other Barks & Bites, Friday, September 20: CAFC Issues Precedential Decisions on Patent Term Adjustment, DOJ Announces Trade Secret Charges, USPTO Urges CAFC Deference to POP

This week in Other Barks & Bites: the Federal Circuit issued a pair of precedential opinions affirming the USPTO’s determinations on patent term adjustment; Chuck Yeager filed a trademark lawsuit against Airbus; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Capitol Hill lawmakers and President Trump; the Office of Technology Assessment Improvement and Enhancement Act was introduced into both houses of Congress; the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a copyright case lodged against musician Steve Winwood; the U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges over the theft of pediatric medicine trade secrets; and the NMPA doubled the damages sought against Peloton after finding more unlicensed songs used by the streaming exercise companies.

The Curious Case of the Trade Secrets that Weren’t

The normally staid world of intellectual property law was buzzing last year about one of the biggest trade secret cases and largest punitive damages awards in American history. The case involves automated valuation models (AVMs), which are computer models typically generated by machine learning—a form of artificial intelligence—and used to estimate property values by analyzing the property’s attributes, comparable properties, and the like. Jaws dropped last March when a Texas jury awarded HouseCanary, a Silicon Valley company specializing in residential real estate data and analytics, more than $700 million in compensatory and punitive damages after accepting its claims that it possessed AVM-related trade secrets that were allegedly misappropriated by Amrock (formerly Title Source), one of the nation’s largest appraisal and title service companies. The jury’s verdict might lead you to believe that Amrock is guilty of one of the most blatant and outrageous intellectual property thefts in history. But when you look closer, it is the jury’s verdict that is outrageous and nearly impossible to justify. I say that not only as a lawyer, but also as someone who built AVMs much like those at issue here before attending law school.

Take Steps to Deter the Spy in Your Business

Tesla recently filed two lawsuits for theft of trade secrets. In March, the auto maker sued several former employees and the two companies they joined, Zoox and Chinese EV automaker Xiaopeng. The trade secrets involved their driverless vehicle technology. Haliburton just sued a former employee for stealing information, getting a patent on it, and then trying to sell it back to Haliburton. Phillips is suing a former employee for stealing secrets that will give competitors a “decades long head start.” Waymo, Google’s self-driving car program, settled with Uber for theft of trade secrets. The settlement was reported by CNN Business to be a portion of Uber’s equity, estimated at $245 million. In In August, the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Northern District of California charged former Google employee Anthony Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google under 18 U.S.C. § 1832 of the Economic Espionage Act (EEA). These cases, and many more like them, involve employees leaving and taking trade secrets with them. Employees come and go, but they shouldn’t take your valuable secrets. You can stop them if you have systems in place, but you have only yourself to blame if you don’t.

Other Barks & Bites, Friday, September 13: CASE Act Moves Out of Committee, Iancu Discusses SEPs and PTAB Designates Two Decisions as Precedential

This week in Other Barks & Bites: the Federal Circuit issued precedential decisions regarding secondary considerations of non-obviousness, limits to design patents and collateral estoppel of antitrust claims in patent cases; the CASE Act moved out of the House Judiciary Committee towards a floor vote; AIPLA reported increasing prices for trade secret and pharmaceutical patent lawsuits; the PTAB designated a pair of precedential decisions that limit IPR institutions; the DOJ identified two foreign nationals in GE Aviation trade secret case; LeBron James and Ohio State University lost their respective trademark bids; USPTO Director Iancu talked about balancing innovation and preventing hold-up in the SEP context; Google agreed to a $1 billion fine over European tax evasion; and the UKIPO reported lower patent application filing levels for 2018.

Separating Fact from Fiction in United States v. Levandowski

In August, the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Northern District of California charged a pioneer of self-driving car technology, Anthony Levandowski, with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google under 18 U.S.C. § 1832 of the Economic Espionage Act (EEA). According to the indictment, Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 files containing critical information about Google’s autonomous-vehicle research before leaving the company in 2016. The indictment alleged that Levandowski then made an unauthorized transfer of the files to his personal laptop. Some of the files that Levandowski allegedly took from Google included private schematics for proprietary circuit boards and designs for light sensor technology, known as Lidar, which are used in self-driving cars. Levandowski joined Uber in 2016 after leaving Google when Uber bought his new self-driving trucking start-up, “Otto.” Levandowski has repeatedly asserted that he never disclosed the download, nor made use of the information while he was at Uber.

Other Barks & Bites, Friday August 30: CAFC Dismisses Appeals of PTAB Institution Denials, Levandowski Indicted on Trade Secrets Theft

This week in Other Barks & Bites: the PTAB institutes IPRs despite arguments that the Chinese government was an unnamed real party-in-interest; the Federal Circuit dismisses appeals of PTAB decisions denying institution on three IPRs; USPTO seeks public comments on examination guidance for artificial intelligence inventions, announces a public hearing on proposed trademark fee adjustments, and is facing backlash for seeking proof of citizenship for trademark applications; Tesla avoids a 10% tax on auto sales in China; the Department of Defense gets closer to establishing an IP protection team; former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski is charged with trade secret theft; trademark protection cases in Dubai have risen 63%; the Copyright Royalty Board announces an intent to audit Sirius XM Radio; and Amazon’s Audible faces copyright infringement suit over text captioning feature.

Note to President Trump: Silicon Valley Pirates Are a Bigger Threat to Intellectual Property Than China

There is a lot of focus—and rightly so—on China’s stealing of U.S. intellectual property (IP). Recently, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow stated on CNBC’s Squawk Box that China has stolen at least $600 billion in American IP. Additionally, one in five North American-based corporations on the CNBC Global CFO Council said that Chinese companies have stolen their IP within the last year. In all, 7 of the 23 companies surveyed said that Chinese firms have stolen from them over the past decade. The annual cost to the U.S. economy for these actions is estimated to be greater than $600 billion. While this is a serious matter that must continue to be addressed, domestic theft of U.S. IP is just as bad if not worse. It is easy to point fingers at China, given their track record, but small U.S. companies and inventors are not having their dreams extinguished by the Chinese. They are being victimized by Silicon Valley’s big tech companies, which make billions of dollars using their stolen IP.

Other Barks & Bites, Friday, August 16: Iancu to Brief CAFC on Precedential Opinion Panel Deference, China to Regulate Patent Agencies, and FCC Approves T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

This week in Other Barks & Bites: The Federal Circuit has asked USPTO Director Andrei Iancu to brief the appellate court on deference that should be paid to precedential PTAB opinions; China announced that it will create a credit rating mechanism for patent agents; Russ Slifer Op-Ed revives 101 debate; the FCC will approve the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger; amicus briefs filed at the Supreme Court support the abrogation of state sovereign immunity against copyright claims; Nintendo ramps up copyright campaign against YouTube accounts using video game music; Guns N’ Roses settles trademark dispute over craft beer brand; and copyright troll entity Malibu Media faces investor lawsuit.

Dear Law Firm: An IP Client’s (Satirical) ‘Love’ Letter

To the superstitious, July is often considered an unlucky month for weddings. In a nod to such lore, and to the leisurely and whimsical days of summer, this is a satirical “love” letter from a fictitious client to its fictitious outside intellectual property counsel, a domestic or foreign law firm. The firm has been providing IP representation to the client for quite some time. Unbeknownst to the firm, but acutely felt by the client, their relationship is on the rocks. In a final act of desperation, the client penned these words in hopes that the firm will move swiftly to help heal the brokenness.

Five Tips for Keeping Safe with Your Head in the Cloud

Management of trade secrets is fraught with competing interests. There is the tradeoff between security and inconvenience—for example, the annoying wait for a special code to allow “two-factor identification” when you already have your password handy. There is trusting your employees while knowing they might leave to join a competitor. And there is the tension between corporate secrecy and the public interest, such as when the fire department insists on knowing what toxic chemicals are used in your facility. And now we have the cloud (like “internet,” its ubiquity merits lower case), which offers unparalleled convenience and flexibility to outsource corporate data management to others. But moving IT functions outside the enterprise creates new vulnerabilities for that data, which happens to be the fastest growing and most valuable category of commercial assets. So understanding this environment has to be a high priority for business managers.

Other Barks & Bites for Wednesday, July 3: Athena v. Mayo Denied En Banc Review; USPTO Announces Trademark Attorney Rule; China Says IP Theft Will Be Compensated

Happy 4th! This week Barks & Bites comes early, starting with a bite: The Federal Circuit denies rehearing of Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services, shattering the hopes of many amici and diagnostic companies; Huawei warns against politicization of IP law after the Trump Administration rolls back part of its ban against Huawei’s U.S. suppliers; Chinese President Xi Jinping talks IP theft compensation at G20 summit; USPTO announces new rule for attorneys representing foreign-domiciled trademark applicants and amends its software acquisition plan; the University of California earns a seventh patent covering CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing; Toshiba registers the UK’s first motion trademark; major U.S. tech firms plan to move production away from China; and Ed Sheeran’s copyright case is stayed until the “Stairway to Heaven” case is resolved at the Ninth Circuit.

Other Barks & Bites for Friday, June 28: Supreme Court Grants Trademark Cases for Next Term, Senators Reiterate Need for Patent Eligibility Reform, and Four Pharma Bills Advance in Senate

This week in Other Barks & Bites: The Supreme Court today agreed to hear two trademark cases next term; Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons issue a statement regarding the recent round of patent eligibility hearings by the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee; four bills that would impact pharmaceutical patents and practices have passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Huawei publicly calls out negative impact of Senator Marco Rubio’s legislative amendment preventing it from seeking U.S. patent infringement damages, one day after losing its trade secret case against CNEX Labs; Spotify settles a pair of major copyright suits targeting its music streaming service; Intel will reportedly auction thousands of IP assets related to wireless device technology; and revised data shows that U.S. GDP grew 3.1% during the first three months of 2019.

The Only Way to Counter False Claims on Patent Reform is to Enter the Debate

Coverage of the ongoing patent reform debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee by the popular press has been alarmist and largely incorrect. For example, even just yesterday—five days after the final hearing on patent eligibility reform concluded—the top story in Google’s patent alert results was “Corporations shouldn’t be able to patent your DNA,” which leads with the sentence, “The practice of patenting genes, once banned by the Supreme Court, may come back soon despite a measure of horror the very idea once inspired.” It would seem that those companies and entities that oppose reform to patent eligibility requirements are not going to meaningfully participate in the political process, and instead will wield their considerable PR machines in an effort to confuse, conflate and misdirect the public as part of their ongoing scheme to suppress innovation in America. Indeed, we know that the high-tech industry was invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but refused, as Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) explained at the second hearing. Why would the high-tech industry choose to ignore these Senate hearings, where many dozens of witnesses both for and against reform were invited to share their views?