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Posts Tagged: "Trade Secret Law"

The Role of Stupidity in Trade Secrets

Although every case had its own special facts reflecting unique personalities, technologies and business models, one necessary element was present in every single case. Somebody had done something stupid. And they still do. Sometimes it’s about what people do when getting ready to leave their job and go into competition. They brazenly solicit customers or foment discontent among the staff they want to recruit. They use the company’s computer system to research and prepare their business plan. They download thousands of confidential files they’re not supposed to have anyway, and then try to cover their tracks by using specialized software – I’m not making this up– called “Evidence Destroyer.”

The 700 Million Dollar Boomerang Lawsuit

This is where the drama begins its teaching. Title Source believed its own narrative, in which it was a victim of HouseCanary’s breach… Why didn’t Title Source see the potential disaster when deciding whether to sue? The answer almost certainly lies in the emotional content of disputes where information has been shared between companies. The relationship starts, as it must, with declarations of trust on both sides. So when things start to go downhill, disappointment morphs into loathing and a sense of victimhood. Each side, anxious to see its own behavior as fully justified, develops a committed perspective.

The Biggest Trade Secret Loophole You’ve Never Heard Of

What would you think if I told you that anyone from France or China or Brazil that was just thinking about some legal action in their country could come here and easily force discovery from a U.S. company, even though they couldn’t dream of getting the same information through their home courts? Crazy, right? That is exactly what has resulted from a law that’s so obscure it doesn’t even have a name, so we call it by its legal citation: 28 U.S.C. Section 1782.

Waymo v. Uber Shows Even Epic Battles Can Be Resolved

There are many lessons to be drawn from the Waymo v. Uber litigation. This is perhaps the most important. Lawsuits are about history, while business is about the future… Most trade secret litigation is fueled by emotional reactions to perceived wrongs. Plaintiffs feel betrayed and abandoned, and defendants feel blamed and misunderstood. Each side wants to fight in order to validate its perspective. So the lawsuit begins with great energy. But over time, new facts emerge, and the parties begin to reconsider the cost/benefit analysis of continuing the struggle.

Why the IP system works against the small

The decision whether to secure technology using a trade secret or a patent hinges as much on the technology as it does on access to capital. Small companies need funding to commercialize new inventions. A patent provides a private property right that can be leveraged to attract funding. However, most large companies like Waymo, one of the richest on the planet, do not need funding. This is no doubt why Alphabet and its Google subsidiary have lobbied to weaken the patent system. It is understandable because it is in the best interests of their well-funded enterprises. It is, however, not in the best interest of innovation more generally speaking, nor is it in the interest of society… The IP system as it currently exists acts to protect huge monopolistic enterprises at the expense of everyone else – employees, startups, job creation, innovation, and society at large. It is no wonder that startups in America continue to decline, as recently reported by none other than the NY Times.

Uber settles trade secret case with Waymo for $245 million

Earlier today Alphabet subsidiary Waymo settled with Uber in the midst of a trade secret infringement trial. This lawsuit originated when Waymo brought suit against Uber in 2017, alleging that a former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski, who was hired by Uber to lead Uber’s self-driving car project, took with him thousands of confidential documents… The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate, criminal investigation into the alleged theft of trade secrets. Levandowski has claimed a Fifth Amendment privilege and has not spoken about the events leading to this dispute.

Searching for the Secrets of a Stradivarius

When the auctioneer’s hammer went down, the violin sold for almost $16 million. It was one of the masterpieces of Cremona, the small northern Italian town that was the 18th-century center of violin-making. Some critics of trade secret law have cited Cremona as an example of progress “lost” because it was buried instead of published through a patent application. There are several reasons why that argument fails, but for today let’s consider the possibility that the violin makers couldn’t have passed on their “secrets” if they wanted to, simply because they didn’t know what made their violins sound so good.

What is a Confidentiality Agreement and Why are they So Important?

A Confidentiality Agreement, which is also known as non-disclosure agreement or simply as an NDA, is simply a contract between two or more parties where the subject of the agreement is a promise that information conveyed will be maintained in secrecy… These types of agreements are particularly useful when one is disclosing information that is valuable so long as secrecy is maintained (i.e., a trade secret), which can include both invention related information and business related information.

When Failure Becomes an Asset

Failure is success if we learn. So why shouldn’t failure qualify as a trade secret? Competitors would love to avoid making the effort and taking the risk… Negative information is most commonly put at risk not by theft of the records of R&D, but by departing employees who are familiar with how a particular technical solution was created or optimized. Eager to help their new colleagues, a recent arrival may wince at a suggested development path and blurt out a warning not to go there. Even very general pointers about an engineering direction to try or to avoid can help a competitor reduce risk and shorten development time. That is why hiring someone who has worked on a similar project for a competitor can lead to trouble.

The Art of Reverse Engineering

Recently a client asked me for advice on setting up a “reverse engineering” project. He no longer had access to any trade secrets of his former employer; what could possibly go wrong?… In most circumstances, there is nothing wrong with reverse engineering. The recently-enacted Defend Trade Secrets Act declares that it cannot be an “improper means” of acquiring information. (In fact, if you properly reverse engineer a product, the information you discover can be held by you as your own trade secret.) The reason behind the rule is apparent when you consider the limits of trade secret protection: selling a product that reveals the design and method of its manufacture means the secret is imperiled. If it is very easy to discern, then the secret is lost immediately. If it might take some time to figure out, then that’s called reverse engineering, and anyone is allowed to do it.

Strategies for Turning Intangible Assets into Profits: What Every Corporation Needs to Know

Join me for a free webinar on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 12pm ET to critical questions and decision-points on the path from idea to intangible asset to tangible profit.

The Most Dangerous Hire: Lessons from Waymo v. Uber

Every trade secret case is built around a story. Sure, the plaintiff’s story is different than the defendant’s, even though each draws on the same facts. For the rest of us that don’t have a dog in the fight, helpful lessons are available. But sometimes you have to look hard to find them. Here’s one. When Waymo, the Google self-driving car company, filed its lawsuit against Uber earlier this year, the story was remarkable enough… This case is instructive for any business considering hiring an executive from a competitor: be aware that the cost of this recruitment might include the legal fees, disruption and liability risk of a trade secret claim.

Strategies for Turning Intangible Assets into Profits: What Every Corporation Needs to Know

Does your CEO, CFO, CTO and General Counsel have the most relevant information regarding the innovation in process to make informed choices about what to pursue? Do your scientists and engineers know enough about what can be protected as proprietary to identify when they have created something of value? Do your middle managers understand enough about the science, engineering and law to ensure they don’t weed out the next billion-dollar idea as something not worth pursuing? Does your corporation have policies in place to determine the best path to proprietary protection once an innovation of consequence has been realized? Join me for a free webinar on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 12pm ET to discuss these critical questions and decision-points on the path from idea to intangible asset to tangible profit.

Intervenor Not Entitled to Mandamus Relief on Discovery Dispute in Waymo v. Uber

Waymo, a Google spin-off, sued Uber and Ottomotto for patent infringement and violations of federal and state trade secret laws. Waymo alleged that its former employee, Mr. Levandowski, improperly downloaded documents on Waymo’s driverless vehicle technology prior to leaving the company and founding Ottomotto, which was subsequently acquired by Uber… During discovery, the Magistrate Judge granted Waymo’s Motion to Compel production of the Stroz Report. Waymo subpoenaed Stroz to produce the report and accompanying communications, documents, and devices. After a Motion to Quash was denied, Levandowski, Ottomotto, and Uber filed Motions for Relief from the Magistrate’s orders. The District Court denied the Motions. Acting alone, Mr. Levandowski appealed the district court’s denial of relief. Because the orders were not appealable final judgments, Mr. Levandowski presented his appeal as a writ of mandamus. The Court denied the writ, dismissed the appeal on jurisdictional grounds, and ordered production of the Report.

Do You Know How to Protect What’s Yours?

In the wake of recent judicial and legislative developments, protecting “what’s yours” has become even more complex. Many businesses and intellectual property lawyers have appropriately favored a strategy focused on obtaining patents when available to protect intellectual assets. However, in recent years there have been unprecedented changes to the American patent system… Developments in patent law have caused owners of intellectual capital to evaluate all available means for its protection including considering when appropriate the protection of innovations as trade secrets.