March 27, 2006
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Trade Secrets, Procedure. Warning: if you’re seeking discovery in a trade secret case in the Suffolk Business Litigation Session make sure that you have (a) provided the court with a detailed description of your trade secrets, and (b) filed a protective order that strictly complies with the Uniform Rules of of Impoundment. For a recent decision making these points, written by Judge Allan Van Gestel in the Suffolk Business Litigation Session, click [here]. The decision, Tourtellotte Solutions, Inc. v. Tradestone Software, Inc., was featured on the front page of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly last October. In a nutshell, the plaintiff asked for expedited discovery (in other words, the right to take discovery on a schedule faster than allowed in the ordinary course by the rules of civil procedure), so that the plaintiff could obtain evidence necessary to bring a preliminary injunction against the defendant. The plaintiff’s basic claim was that the defendant had engaged in “software misappropriation,” a term that Judge Van Gestel stated “sounds very much like trade secret misappropriation.” The judge denied the motion, stating: “a detailed description of what is claimed to be a trade secret must be provided and a protective order of some sort needs to be worked out.” Neither conclusion is surprising in the least. Many decisions in trade secret cases have held that the plaintiff must identify its trade secrets with particularity. The courts…
March 22, 2006
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Patents. On Wednesday, March 29, 2006, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear oral argument in eBay v. MercExchange. The issue is whether the owner of a patent (in this case MercExchange) has the right to enjoin (or stop) an infringer (eBay) from selling an infringing product or service – in this case eBay’s popular “Buy It Now” (or, to eBay aficionados, “BIN”) purchase feature. A jury has already found that eBay infringed MercExchange’s patent on this technology, and MercExchange is attempting to invoke the general rule that a successful patent plaintiff can shut down an infringing product, pending appeal. It was just this threat — the threat of a shut down — that led to Research in Motion paying a $612.5 million settlement to NTP in February. eBay is asking SCOTUS to modify the traditional rule and permit it to continue to use this service pending appeal. In patent circles this is a very big deal, and the outcome is expected to be a “landmark case.” For an interesting discussion of the patent policy issues underlying this dispute see the article by Sam Williams in the MIT Enterprise Technology Review [link]. For a primer on software injunctions, and links to many of the briefs filed in the case, see this article in the “Patently O” patent blog [link].