Use of the Internet in trade secret cases

Using the Internet

Using the Internet

I recently defended a case involving allegations that our client, a service industry provider, took equipment and other purported trade secrets from his former employer.  The Internet proved to be an extremely valuable tool in challenging the plaintiff’s claims that the equipment design was proprietary and confidential.  Among other things, we were able to find similar equipment available for sale on eBay, videos of similar equipment being used on YouTube and many other competitors around the country who were using similar technology.  Discovering similar information prior to the onset of the Internet would have been much more costly and difficult.

What I also found of particular note was the willingness of the trial court judge to allow information from these websites to be admitted into evidence without tracking down the persons who created/posted the information.  In advance of a scheduled evidentiary hearing, I asked the court if it would be willing to allow this information (including videos, photos and links to web sites) to be admitted into evidence at an evidentiary hearing in determining whether plaintiff’s claims had merit.  The court indicated that it would allow the use of such information.

It is unclear whether this is something particular to the judge assigned to the case, or whether this is becoming more commonplace in these types of cases.  Either way, the court’s position in our case was very beneficial, made our case easier and less costly to prove, and is something counsel should ask the court about if the need exists.

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Comments

Great post! Another good tool to use in hearings where you have to prove the existence of information on the Internet at some time in the past is The Wayback Machine. Check it out at http://www.archive.org. The Wayback Machine “records” copies of old versions of Internet sites. If you are lucky you can find information a party has made public in the past that that you can use to defeat a trade secret claim.

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