Contracts

Oh, Did I Forget to Tell You That Was Confidential? Better Overkill Than Underkill

A lot of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) provide that if one party gives the other a document and expects it to be treated as confidential, the document must be marked “confidential.”  Or, if the confidential information is communicated orally, the party that wants to protect it must notify the receiving party in writing within a specified number of days. (“Hey, the stuff we told at our meeting on Monday relating to our fantastic new product idea? That’s all confidential under our NDA”).

This was the situation in Convolve, Inc. v. Compaq Computer, decided by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on July 1, 2013.  The NDA at issue in that case provided that to trigger either party’s confidentiality obligations “the disclosed information must be: (1) marked as confidential at the time of disclosure; or (2) unmarked, but treated as confidential at the time of disclosure, and later designated confidential in a written memorandum summarizing and identifying the confidential information.”

Big mistake.… Read the full article

93A Opinion in Baker v. Goldman Sachs: What Happens When You Mix In Equal Parts A Start-Up, a Fraudulent Purchaser, a Tech Bubble and a New York Investment Banker?

Earlier this year, on the eve of trial in Baker v. Goldman Sachs in federal district court in Boston, I published a blog post describing the facts behind this unusual case, which involved the acquisition of Dragon Systems by Lernout & Hauspie in a $600 million all-stock deal. Soon after the acquisition closed the market discovered that Lernout had fabricated its Asian sales figures. This was quickly followed by Lernout’s bankruptcy, which left Dragon (owned by the Bakers, husband and wife founders) holding worthless Lernout stock. (Baker v. Goldman Sachs – The Business Deal From Hell).

The acquisition was negotiated and concluded in the first half of 2000, just as the technology bubble was beginning to deflate. nasdaq

After a lengthy trial the jury ruled in favor of Goldman Sachs on all issues except the claim that Goldman violated M.G.L. c. 93A, the Massachusetts statute that makes illegal “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” Under Massachusetts law, that claim must be decided by the judge.… Read the full article

“Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” is Yahoo!, of course. And, its lawyers should be embarrassed by Yahoo!’s inability to create enforceable online Terms of Service (TOS).

The issue arose in Ajemian v. Yahoo!, decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court on May 7, 2013. In this case the plaintiffs were the administrators of a decedent’s estate. They wanted access to the decedent’s email account to let his friends know of his death and memorial service, and later to locate assets of his estate. Yahoo! refused to provide the online password, and the administrators filed suit in Massachusetts to compel access.

Yahoo!, in turn, argued the suit should have been brought in California and, in any event, it was too late. These arguments were based on Yahoo!’s terms of service which provide, in part, as follows:

You and Yahoo agree to submit to the personal and exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located within the county of Santa Clara, California….

Read the full article
D. Mass. Judge Stearns: Advertising Claims Create Express Warranty Despite Disclaimer in EULA

Assume a software vendor makes advertising clams regarding its product’s functionality. However, its end-user license agreement (EULA) is very narrow – it provides a 30 day  express warranty that (i) “the medium (if any) on which the [s]oftware is delivered will be free of material defects” and (ii) that “the software will perform substantially in accordance with the applicable specification.” Assume further that that software performs in a manner consistent with the “applicable specification” (the user manual) but inconsistent with advertising claims for the product. In fact,  not surprisingly given that this case is in federal court, it malfunctions and wipes out the data on the purchaser’s hard drive. 

You might think that the EULA would prevent a purchaser from claiming breach of express warranty, but under Delaware law (and the law of most states) you would be incorrect.

AVG Technologies is the seller of PC TuneUp. In Rottner v.Read the full article