Posts Tagged: "Trade Secrets"

Final Panelists at Senate 101 Hearings Stress Real-World Effects of Status Quo, Tillis Signals Changes to Draft Text

After three hearings and 45 witnesses, there were few new fundamental arguments advanced for or against reforming patent eligibility law at today’s final Senate IP Subcommittee hearing on the topic, but several key—and some alarming—messages were underscored. A few takeaways off the bat: there are going to be considerable changes to the working draft. In particular, there were four issues that Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) noted were raised repeatedly. First, both sides agreed the new proposed definition of “utility,” which requires “sufficient and practical utility in any field of technology through human intervention” needs to be further defined; those for reform felt that the language could be too narrowly interpreted, while those against feared it was not definite enough. “Clearly, those terms need better definition or more meat on the bones,” Tillis said. Secondly, everyone was concerned with Section 112(f). Tillis pointed to the practical argument made by inventor Paul Morinville about the impossibility of meeting that requirement in the context of software coding language, for example, while Tillis said the tech companies were afraid the language wasn’t strong enough to weed out overbroad software and business method claims that most agree should not be patent eligible.

Of Supply Chains and Fireworks: A Trade War with China is Easy to Lose

Over the course of two weeks, the United States has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods and has blacklisted Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications company, on national security grounds. Google, Intel, Qualcomm and Micron have announced that they will stop doing business with the company. The United States has even threatened to withhold intelligence from our key allies if they go forward with plans to use Huawei equipment. Although there are many issues driving this newly escalated trade war between the United States and China, chief among them is the concern that China and its companies are engaged in intellectual property theft. Say what? Upend global markets over infringement of private technology rights? This must be pretty serious. Let’s take a closer look.

Other Barks & Bites for Friday, May 10: Congress and Trump Crack Down on Pharma, Amici File Briefs in Acorda, and USPTO to Modify Patent Term Adjustment Procedures

This week in Other Barks & Bites, IPWatchdog’s IP news roundup: the House of Representatives passes drug patent legislation, while antitrust legislation targeting patent-related activities is introduced into the Senate and the Trump administration mandates pricing information for pharmaceutical ads; the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issues a pair of precedential decisions on cases with multiple petitions; the USPTO issues marijuana-related trademark guidelines and a notice on modifying patent term adjustment practices; Gilead strikes a settlement with Teva to bring generic Truvada to the U.S. market in 2020; a new music licensing entity is created in Canada; Fourth Circuit rules that bankruptcy can eliminate damages for trade secret violations; and several amicus file briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to eliminate the Federal Circuit’s “blocking patent” doctrine.

Other Barks and Bites, Friday, May 3: CASE Act, China Leads in 5G SEPs, and SCOTUS Requests Government’s Views in Oracle v. Google

This week in IP news: the CASE Act, which would create a small claims system for copyright claims, is reintroduced in both houses of Congress; Qualcomm earns a massive $4.5 billion payment from its settlement with Apple; the U.S. Supreme Court seeks input from the Solicitor General on Oracle v. Google; and China amends its trademark law, increases copyright actions, and earns more than one-third of all 5G SEPs.

Some Progress in the International Effort to Harmonize Trade Secret Protection

In 1994, the United States was winding up the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations leading to the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Tucked in among the toothbrush and rice tariffs was the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property. The TRIPS Agreement was seen as a breakthrough, setting common standards for protecting IP, including provisions on trade secrets that closely aligned with U.S. law. Twenty years later, I visited a friend at the WTO to find out what had actually been happening as a result of TRIPS. I was especially interested in what countries had done since 1994 to bring their national laws into harmony with the trade secret requirements. Because each member of the WTO was supposed to submit reports on its compliance, I asked about them. Yes, we have them, my friend told me. They were in boxes in the next room. But no one had ever read them. Just months before my visit, the European Commission had received an industry report lamenting the legal chaos facing companies that tried to enforce their trade secret rights in Europe. Although every one of the 27 member states of the EU was also a signatory to the TRIPS agreement, virtually none of them was in compliance. In response, the Commission issued a “Directive,” instructing all member states to (finally) harmonize some basic aspects of their trade secret laws.

A Lack of Focus on Trade Secrets Can Pose Serious Risks

We all talk about the importance of data as business assets, but when it comes to buying and selling the companies that own them, we seem not to pay much attention. My anecdotal survey reveals that colleagues who focus on mergers and acquisitions  confess to a lack of focus on trade secrets. This may seem odd, even crazy, given the increasing percentage of industrial property represented by intangible assets—up from 17% in 1975 to 84% in 2015. The problem appears to start with the fact that secret information, no matter how central to the success of the business, is mysterious. Unlike the “registered rights” of patent, copyright and trademark, there are no government certificates defining secrets; and valuing them is hard. Add to that the imperative to get deals done faster and cheaper, and it’s easy to see how secrecy may have become the blind spot of transactional IP.

Utah IP Summit 2019

The Utah IP Summit is sponsored by the Intellectual Property Section of the Utah State Bar. The IP Summit is a full day CLE conference hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah where participants attend presentations by leading national and local experts on the hottest topics facing IP attorneys today. For outdoor enthusiasts, the conference is immediately adjacent to the Wasatch…

Of Secret Sales and Public Uses: The Practical Consequences of the Supreme Court’s Helsinn Decision

It seemed like a trade secret trifecta when Congress in 2011 passed the America Invents Act (AIA). Although the statute was aimed at patent reform, it made three helpful changes in how trade secrets are treated. First, companies could hold onto secret information about an invention without risking invalidation of their patents for failing to disclose the “best mode” of implementing it. Second, the “prior user right” that guarantees continuing use of a secret invention, even if someone else later patents it, was extended to cover all technologies. And third, the law would no longer deny a patent simply because the inventor had already commercialized the invention in a way that didn’t reveal it to the public. Or so we thought. That last change depended on how you read the legislation. The long-standing requirement that an invention could not be “on sale” or “in public use” more than a year before filing a patent application was still there. But Congress added a qualifier to 35 U.S.C. §102: there would be no patent if the invention had been “in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public . . . .”

Don’t Be Fooled by His Patent Purge: Elon Musk is Just Another Hypocritical Tech Billionaire

In 2014, Elon Musk made Tesla’s patents available for anyone to use for free, stating that “technology leadership is not defined by patents.” Earlier this month, Musk announced again that he had released all of Tesla’s patents, promising the company “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” Musk believes patents only serve “to stifle progress” and that by releasing his patents he can help get progress moving again—and that progress will somehow win the fight against climate change. But do patents stifle progress, and will releasing patents really have this result? Patents are a trade with a government. The inventor agrees to disclose the invention to the public in exchange for a limited exclusive right to the invention. No one else can make, use, sell or import the invention without the inventor’s permission. The public interest is served because the invention is publicly disclosed, so anyone can improve the invention and patent that advancement. And anyone can design around it and patent that invention. If the invention has commercial value, no doubt many people will jump in and do one or both.

Trade Secret Disputes: Identifying Mutual Interest in the Face of Major Disagreement

It’s a challenge to resolve business disputes when emotions run high, which includes almost all trade secret cases. So, I was especially pleased when, in a hard-fought litigation where I had been appointed as a “referee” to resolve discovery disputes, both lawyers eventually reached out to tell me how much they appreciated my involvement in the case, which had settled. What was it about this variation on typical legal combat—where a private party is selected to rule on some important aspects—that they found so satisfying? First, they had saved their clients a lot of time, and probably money, compared to the cost of dealing with unpredictable court calendars. And second, they felt that the decisions they received were thoughtful, balanced and practical, reflecting an understanding of the relevant business environment.

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.”

Proprietary Techniques vs. Employee Rights: The struggle to balance competing interests

It’s football season, so of course we should be talking about beer. Specifically, beer secrets. For fourteen years James Clark had an enviable job at Anheuser-Busch, where he had access to the brewer’s confidential recipes. For unexplained reasons he resigned. Instead of joining a competitor, he went to see a lawyer about planning a class action against his former employer for “intentionally overstating the alcohol content” of the company’s “malt beverages.”… Anheuser-Busch sued him for misappropriation of its secrets for making beer.

Secrets of Social Media: Who owns social media accounts?

Andy Bitter, a former sports journalist covering the travails and triumphs of the Virginia Tech football team, was sued last month by his former employer, a local newspaper, for trade secret theft. According to the plaintiff Roanoke Times he was obligated by the company’s employee handbook to turn over all company property, and this necessarily included the Twitter account he had used to stay in touch with his 17,000+ followers… In spite of the mess it created, the Roanoke Times has reminded us of some important questions for industry in the information age. Who owns social media accounts? What role do they play in building competitive advantage? And how should companies manage their use?

Trade Secrets: Intellectual Property Considerations and Guidance for Start-Ups

Trade secret holders must take reasonable precautions to maintain the secrecy of their secrets, such as keeping such information on a “need-to-know” basis. Companies should have clear IP, confidentiality, and employment agreements describing which types of information are considered trade secrets. These agreements should also describe an employee’s responsibility for maintaining the secrecy of such information. In spite of reasonable precautions by a trade secret holder, bad actors may maliciously misappropriate trade secrets.

The Blades Just Keep Spinning

Sinovel encouraged him to leave AMSC, promising to pay him a million dollars over five years (along with an apartment, and, reportedly, a prostitute). His advance was only 15,000 euros, but it did the trick. Karabasevic resigned, but his supervisor asked him to stay on for a while, with full access to the company’s systems. This allowed him time to create a bootleg version of the AMSC controller software, and to transfer it to his future employer in China. This was the software that evaded the AMSC technicians’ diagnostic tools and allowed the windmills to keep turning when they should have turned off. It would be some months before the company learned about their former employee’s treachery, but in the meantime it had lost almost 90% of its revenue, shed a billion dollars in shareholder equity, and had to lay off 700 employees.