Trade Secrets

Are American Institutions the Breeding Ground for Intellectual Property Theft?

By: Phillip Jester, Summer Blogger

https://pixabay.com/en/computer-security-padlock-hacker-1591018/A recent White House report accused China, the world’s second-largest economy, of engaging in aggressive “acts, policies, and practices that fall outside of global norms and rules.” The report highlights a new threat posed by China: the presence of “Chinese Nationals” serving as “Non-Traditional Information Collectors” at American universities.  The White House alleges that the Chinese State has created educational programs which encourage science and engineering students to master important military technologies in order to share such technologies with Beijing.

More than 100 American universities currently collaborate with Confucius Institutes, educational organization that are sponsored by China’s Communist Party.  Lawmakers and intelligence officials are now speaking out against the role of Confucius Institutes as possible “spying outposts.” In February, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) Director Christopher Wray stated that Chinese spies are being planted in American schools in order to exploit “very open research and development” environments.  The exploitation of open educational environments may already be paying off.  Chinese Scientists returning from American laboratories have played a key role in the development of hypersonic glide systems, systems capable of penetrating any current missile defense. Continue reading »

How The Race to Building a Self-Driving Car Became a Legal Battleground

By: Christopher Lewis *| Staff Writer

By Steve Jurvetson (originally posted to Flickr as Hands-free Driving) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Steve Jurvetson (originally posted to Flickr as Hands-free Driving) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The business world is predominantly focused on profitability and finding new ways to turn a profit; Uber and Waymo share in this focus. In their quest to build a self-driving car, their respective trade secrets are of the utmost importance as, in most contexts, trade secrets provide a powerful tool that when used properly can exponentially grow the profitability of a business. Trade secrets are often hard to quantify, however, particularly when the accused party did not show a bad faith intent to take the information and use it to their advantage. To help decipher this area of the law, there are many different definitions that have been promulgated by various Restatements. One of the most predominant definitions comes from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which states that a trade secret exists when two factors are met: the material derives independent economic value from not being readily ascertainable and the material is under reasonable efforts to keep it secret. This gives the general framework that courts will use in examining these trade secret issues.

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Wireless Technology Gets Tangled Up in the Legal System

By: Jamie Burchette *| Staff Writer

By Redrum0486 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DynaTAC8000X.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Redrum0486 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DynaTAC8000X.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

It is an age-old story – companies work together, but the relationship sours. Sometimes this is the end of the story, and sometimes this is only the beginning. The relationship between Keyssa Inc and Essential Products Inc seems to be heading in the latter direction.

Keyssa is a company that wants to change the way devices connect with each other. There are already several existing ways: cables, Wi-Fi, etc., however, Keyssa’s product, Kiss Connectivity, promises many benefits over existing connections. Wireless connections take up a significant amount of space inside devices since the connection requires antennas. While these antennas are small, they are relatively large when they are placed inside a smartphone. On the other hand, Kiss Connectivity is “coffee bean-sized” and takes up less space. And, unlike cables, Kiss Connectivity does not require an opening in the device. Kiss Connectivity is more secure than Wi-Fi since it is a direct connection between the two devices without going through any routers. Even more impressively, Kiss Connectivity allows data transfer speeds of up to 6GB per second.

Keyssa has been developing this technology since 2009, and it is just starting to roll it out. In October 2016, Keyssa announced it was placing Kiss Connectivity in Intel 2 in 1 devices. In August 2017, Keyssa partnered with Samsung and Foxconn to place Kiss Connectivity chips in smartphones. Keyssa’s thunder, however, was stolen by the Essential Phone.  The Essential Phone was released shortly after the partnership was announced, and it came equipped with a “magnetic connector with wireless data transfer.” For Keyssa, this move raised some eyebrows, and, subsequently, Keyssa filed a lawsuit against Essential Products.

Keyssa’s lawsuit does not allege that Essential Products stole their chip technology. Instead, this lawsuit has taken a different path. According to Keyssa, the two companies spent ten months discussing Keyssa’s technology. These discussions involved Keyssa’s trade secrets, which Essential Phone was obligated not to disclose under a non-disclosure agreement. Eventually, Essential Products ended the relationship and, instead, used a competing chip from SiBEAM.  Still, the Essential Phone incorporated elements, such as testing methods and antenna designs, which Keyssa claims are trade secrets which they had shared with Essential Products.

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TRADE SECRET ESPIONAGE

By: Lindsey Chessum *

ECONOMIC PROWESS STILL IS A CONCERN OF NATIONAL SECURITY

600px-US-DeptOfJustice-SealRecently, there has been a tirade of executive orders and government announcements concerning cyber attacks. All circling back to issues of economic stability and national security.

The concern is that cyber attacks involve theft of trade secrets. Trade secrets include client lists, business models, or product ingredients like the recipe for Coca-Cola. Theft can cost millions or billions of dollars from a single instance leading to layoffs, lost sales, office or factory closures, and even bankruptcy. Essentially businesses lose their competitive edge. The traditional method of espionage was to recruit former or current employees, but cyber attacks are an increasingly real danger.

In regards to national security, Gen. Keith Alexander, the top officer at U.S. Cyber Command, heads 13 teams with the mission of guarding the U.S. in cyberspace. He does not consider trade secret theft or espionage to be acts of war until the intent becomes to “disrupt or destroy the U.S. infrastructure.” This could involve targeting banking institutions, chemical facilities, or water treatment plants. Then a line has been crossed and national security is at stake. Continue reading »

The Rising Threat of Corporate Espionage – It’s Electric

By Lauren M. Tozzi *

In early January, Renault, the second-largest automaker in France, suspended three of its managers for allegedly selling information related to the company’s electric car program.  Corporate espionage has been on the rise in recent years, but this case is particularly shocking because the breach occurred at such a high level of corporate management.  The Independent in London reported that the stolen information was shipped to China by way of a French-based operation that specializes in economic spying.  Although Renault claims that the stolen information only pertains to the economic model for its electric car program, other sources report that the executives sold completed patents that were not yet registered.  These patents relate to the batteries and engines in new electric car models that Renault intends to release in the next few years.  Renault and its subsidiary, Nissan, have invested over five billion dollars in the development of their electric car program.  Renault has made this investment with the expectation that electric cars will account for ten percent of worldwide auto sales in the next ten years. Continue reading »

Shh!! It’s a Secret!: Coca-Cola’s Recipe Revealed?

By Tierryicah Mitchell *

Can it be?  Has Coca-Cola’s original recipe actually been uncovered after remaining secret for nearly 125 years?  On the February 11 broadcast of National Public Radio’s This American Life, the producers claimed to have discovered Coca-Cola’s heavily guarded secret formula.  “I am not kidding,” host Ira Glass stated at the beginning of the show.  “One of the most famously guarded trade secrets on the planet: I have it right here and I am going to read it to you.  I am going to read it to the world.”

According to Glass, one of the best-kept secrets had been hidden in plain view since February 18, 1979.  Glass spent the first half of the program explaining how he fortuitously came across the 32-year-old edition of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, which had a picture of a page from a book of handwritten pharmacists’ recipes.  The producers explained that the photo was able to fly under the radar of the masses because no one realized that it was actually a handwritten copy of John Pemberton’s original recipe. Continue reading »