Intellectual Property Law Reinforces Itself With New Trade Secrets Protection Law

The President and Congress have helped add another protective wall to the realm of Intellectual Property Law this week. The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 is a new federal law created to protect American companies and their trade secrets from corporate espionage and theft. Although trade secrets are protected by most individual state laws, they are not protected by federal law. According to the National Law Review, for the first time, the DTSA will create a federal civil cause of action for misappropriation of trade secrets. The law will hold a provision protecting individuals who disclose trade secret information to their attorneys.

Trade secrets are different in nature from its own Intellectual Property counterparts. Unlike patents, trademarks, and copyrights, trade secrets are registered in public databases. Trade secrets are unknown to the general public. Take for example Coca Cola’s secret formula, or Google’s security algorithms. Although they are known to exist, few know what they actually are and how they are made.

Trade secret protections guard the innovations and creativity of American firms in the United States, allowing for a fair and competitive market that the American economic system attempts to foster. They guarantee a competitive advantage over competitors and ensure a system where innovation is valued. With the rise of the global, digital economy, and the advent of the internet, trade secret threats are at an all time high.

According to Michelle K. Lee, former Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, trade secret thefts cost U.S. innovators more than an estimated $300 billion in revenue annually. Cyber Espionage has misappropriated trade secrets across state and international borders, potentially undermining national security and weakening the U.S. economy. With the Defend Trade Secrets Act, businesses are now better protected with the support of the federal government.

The National Law Review recommends that all companies consider reviewing and revising their policies and contracts governing trade secrets applicable to employees, contractors, vendors, and service providers. This will ensure that all involved parties comply with DTSA standards.

Thanks to a joint effort by Congress and the President, the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 is now law. This is surely a win for American innovation and trade protection in the United States.

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Protect your Startup with this Intellectual Property Crash Course

There is no doubt that protecting your company’s intangible assets makes for a sound business practice. However, even if you are in the early stages of your business, you should strongly consider protecting your intellectual property. Many infant companies and startups make the mistake of prioritizing their IP last, which often leaves them in difficult predicaments once they are better established. To avoid this, make sure to consult with IP attorneys during your company’s early stages. Until then, here are some informational tips on IP you should consider for your startup.

What is IP?

Intellectual Property – or IP for short – falls into four different categories which include: trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and copyrights. Copyrights protect original works of authorship. The holder of a copyright has the exclusive right to distribute and reproduce the copyrighted work. Patents are exclusive to inventions, granting property rights to the patent holder. The holder automatically excludes others from reproducing, selling, or using the invention without permission. Trademarks are phrases, symbols, or designs that identify with a brand or company. Owners of a trademark can enforce against the use or reproduction of the phrase or symbol. Trade Secrets are unique in the sense that they are not known to the public. A trade secret is a process, formula, or practice that gives a company a competitive advantage over its competition.

Tips:

Create and use documentation to have a record of contracts and agreements used during the company’s early stages. This will prevent problems with original members that may have helped form ideas in your company. Also keep records of other important dates or milestones in your company to defend yourself in the case of infringement accusations.

Enabling Public Disclosure means that you have shared enough information about your product or service that others within your industry can copy the product. Information can be released in a tech show or exhibition. According to Mary Juetten of Forbes, it is a legal term that many startup leaders learn a little too late. You can no longer patent a product or invention one year after an EPD release.

Confidentiality Agreements are meant to protect your IP. According to Startup Runner, all involved parties should sign a mutual non disclosure agreement before any information on the IP is disclosed. In the case that the IP was discussed without such an agreement, make a detailed list of what was disclosed so that an attorney may assist you in IP protection.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Legal Industry Sees New Opportunities Arise with Emerging FinTech Industry

Legal experts are optimistic about the new career pathways that FinTech, or the financial technology industry, is paving for junior lawyers.

From mobile banking, to virtual reality technology, to even digitized currencies like bitcoin, the field is offloading an array of complex questions onto the legal industry.

In a conference held in London, some topFinTech and legal experts shared insights on the bright future of junior lawyers in the increasingly popular field.

According to LegalCheek.com, the broad conclusion of the conference is that new legal opportunities will arrive from developments in theFinTech industry for the next generation of corporate lawyers.

The regulatory structure of the financial world is growing as new technologies begin to take a more prominent role in the daily activities of businesses across the country. As new legal framework forms alongside the rise of new technologies,FinTech companies gain the necessary confidence to continue innovating.

Instead of hindering business, the legal world organizes it, guiding it through avenues that will provide structure and confidence for developing industries. For example, developing technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality are fairly unexplored via legal outlets. Part of the reason is due to the infancy of such technologies. However, once these technologies reach commercial platforms and mainstream popularity, regulations will need to be in place. This legal framework can range from protecting intellectual property, regulating business practices, and even managing copyrights.

With the advent of drones, an array of new complex legal issues continues to rise. As individuals, firms, and governments test their boundaries with drones, limits will be put into place – limits on whether drones are allowed to fly over urban downtown areas, near airports, and even by public forums have already been causing controversy.

Inconsistencies between federal and local laws will surely bring about an array of legal battles between individuals and governments. Surely, more lawyers who understand FinTech will be needed to meet the future high demands of this unchartered territory.

At the moment, there is a general shortage of lawyers who understand both corporate finance and technology laws. The field is currently booming, and will inevitably explode in the coming years once many of these technologies are introduced into the mainstream. Victoria Birch of Norton Rose Fullbright stressed the importance of a formal education in the subject when she asserted that junior lawyers must be prepared to “speak the same language” as clients, and must therefore understand the field better than anyone else. Some experts are even calling for a cross-mixing of law and computer science in the academic levels. Either way, the demands for smart, tech savvy lawyers will only rise as we reach a new age of technological innovation.

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Legal Battles Ensue over iPhone Encryption Case

With the San Bernardino shootings still fresh in everyone’s mind, the recent court controversy between Apple Inc. and U.S. law enforcement is becoming quite the legal showdown. In efforts to find possible leads, links, and further evidence in connection with the San Bernardino shooters, the FBI has turned its focus on an iPhone belonging to the husband and wife in question.

But, to no avail. Apple implants security features that lock individuals from accessing a phone after too many failed password input attempts. The FBI has attempted to circumvent Apple’s security features through the U.S. court system. However Apple is staunchly fighting the court order, opening a Pandora’s Box of complex legal battles between federal authorities, and the tech giant.

Using a 227 year-old statute signed by President George Washington himself, a federal judge has ordered Apple to break the encryption code that locks an iPhone belonging to one of two shooters that killed fourteen people in San Bernardino on December 2015. The courts have mandated that Apple create a new IOS operating system that would allow a “back door” of sorts to iPhones and their security safeguards.

Apple, committed to its company policy of prioritizing customer privacy, refuses any and all mandates that may compromise customer privacy. The 227 year old statute in dispute is the All Writs Act of 1789. According to Danny Lewis of the Smithsonian, the law “gives federal judges the power to issue orders to compel people to do things within the limits of the law.”

Originally part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the law is designed to grant broad power to federal judges attempting to issue court orders “agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” The FBI argues that Apple’s cooperation in the matter will open a new outlet for possible evidence affecting the case. Such evidence can even help prevent further attacks if connected individuals and organizations are apprehended thanks to the new evidence.

Apple however argues that the court order can unveil a new and dangerous precedent violating privacy rights for individuals in this country. Theodore J. Boutrous, Apple’s lawyer spearheading the case, says the mandate is in direct violation of First Amendment Rights. “The government here is trying to use this statute from 1789 in a way that it has never been used before. They are seeking a court order to compel Apple to write new software, to compel speech,” quoted the LA Times.

Additionally, the new court order will also compromise individuals by creating a “backdoor” access to other devices and their motherboards, leaving customers prey to hackers and other digital predators. In other words, the FBI as well as other groups, will have future access to data that was once privately secured.

Joseph Menn and Julia Love of Reuters write that this legal battle could push for the development of government-proof devices. Barriers engineered to safeguard against future government intrusion are imminent, setting the stage for further animosity between the federal government and tech companies. Whether the FBI wins its case or not, law enforcement is sure to face future hurdles from tech industry giants.

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Google & Microsoft Patent Reconciliation

Definition: A patent – a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention.
Or
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Google-Microsoft

Recently, patents have been the center of discussion in the tech and business sectors as companies have used patents to secure monopoly rights to various inventions. The United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) upholds the Patent Act (35 U.S. Code) to determine which patents are approved and issued to whom.

If you aren’t familiar, even big name companies like Microsoft and Google are consistently involved in patent infringement wars. A few days ago, Microsoft and Google announced they would drop their patent disputes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an order settling royalty rates for Motorola’s video-coding and WLAN patents. Moreover, a jury trial effectively settled a patent dispute between Microsoft and Motorola in favor of the former, awarding the company $14.5 million in damages. Although Google sold the Motorola brand to Lenovo last year, Google inherited many pre-existing patent disputes when it bought the company in 2012.

Shortly after the Motorola settlement, Microsoft and Google agreed to dismiss all pending infringement complaints between the two. They have instead agreed to collaborate on numerous patent matters and intend to continue a working relationship for the benefit of their customers. Over the past few years, disagreements regarding the use of standard patents to disrupt competition has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. Standard-essential patents are those which define standards and are understood to be licensed under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The Motorola company was accused of breaching its FRAND agreement. In 2013, Google also agreed to grant competitive access on FRAND terms.

A New Take on the Alphabet

alphabet-structure By this point, you’ve probably read about Google’s dramatic announcement that it would be merging with a new parent company called Alphabet, Inc. And yet many are still confused as to what this actually means. Some ask, “why would Google change its name,” or “what made Google change its structure so abruptly?” In a disorganized age of information overload, it can be difficult to find the answers you’re looking for. Here are a few basic answers to common questions about Alphabet, Inc.

Alphabet, Inc. is a holding (parent) company. Within this parent company will sit Google and Google’s subsidiaries, such as maps, ads, and YouTube. Alphabet, Inc. will not directly make or sell any products; so, it really does function like one large umbrella under which Google’s subsidiaries are housed. Larry Page, one of Google, Inc.’s co-founders will serve as the Alphabet, Inc. CEO and Sergey Brin, Google, Inc.’s other co-founder, will serve as president. Sundar Pichai will become the CEO of Google, Inc.

So of course, many are asking why Google would make such a drastic change. The main reason lies in Google’s acquisition of multiple smaller companies like Deja, Outride, Kaltix, ZipDash, and the list goes one. Moreover, the merger allows Google better ways allocate resources to some of their larger projects under search, Android, and Google Auto. Think with Google is an entire digital innovation lab.

Fortunately, if you currently own Google, Inc. shares, you can continue to trade stock under the GOOG and GOOGL ticker symbols on the NASDAQ. After the merge is complete and finalized sometime next year, your current stocks will be rebranded as Alphabet stock, retaining value and price history. Although a bit complex, the Alphabet umbrella company will contain Calico, Google x, Fiber, Google Ventures, Google Capital, Nest, and simply Google.

As Google continues to expand, we can only expect more structural and branding changes along the way. While it may be difficult to understand at times, at least there’s always something interesting to look out for.