Kits and Trade secrets
Leonard N. Bloksberg
bloksber at pilot.msu.edu
Mon Nov 1 18:50:00 EST 1993
For the benefit of Bob and Jim, and whoever wants to know, I want to put
my $.02 in on the kit war.
I must first state that I am not a lawyer, and anything I say should
be checked with one before trying to use it in court, but I do have some
understanding of the law from various readings and courses on law.
I think that Bob will find that he is very much in the wrong in this
case. Jim has done nothing wrong, and Bob, by threatening an unwarrented law
suit, may have put himself (and his company) in line for a harrasment suit.
US patent law does not protect you from public disclosure of your company
secret. In fact, a legal patent requires full disclosure of your discovery.
Furthermore, a patent protects the holder from others selling their work
only. It allows for any individual to copy the idea/device for personal
use at will. As long as Jim does not try to sell those secrets that he can
uncover, he has done nothing wrong. Since posts to the net cannot be put on
your CV, he cannot be said to have gained proffessionally by disseminating
these ideas. He is simply sharing information with friends in an informal
setting. This has been tested extensively in some rather public cases with
regards to the recording industry. You can make as many copies or re-mixes
of recordings as you want for personal use.
Furthermore, I think that Jim may be able to put forth a legitamate
case for fraud against a company that was selling a comonplace item, from a
published procedure as a secret ingredient at inflated prices. Such a case
would be very difficult to win, but would certainly be heard in court (whilst
the above mentioned case against Jim would probably never make it into court).
I doubt Jim has the time to persue such a suit either. I don't know that
any of the kits being sold for scientific use today would qualify as such
gross examples of fraud as to be subject to legal action, but if such a case
As for the harrasment suit against Bob and his company, I know of
no disclaimer that has ever held up in court. Your disclaimer removing
you from your company is not legally binding. In general, the courts find
the nearest bystander with deep pockets to sack with the suit. I don't like
this aspect of our law, but it's true. If the court can find any connection
with your company, then your company (with it's bigger financial recources to
pay the lawyers fees) will end up paying the tab. The fact that you
specifically mentioned that you would like your company to file the suit,
and the fact that the letter was sent from your companies computer, with
a company sig-file at the bottom is particularly damning in this case. Jim
will have no problems implicating your company if he chooses to persue this
case. In addition, the surge of SLAP suits in the past decade has made
the courts much more sensative to such threats as Bob's, and much more
sympathetic to people like Jim.
I think that's enough for now. Good luck Jim and Bo
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