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On August 4, 2020, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California William Alsup sentenced former Uber executive Anthony Levandowski to 18 months in prison after Levandowksi pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets relating to Google’s self-driving vehicle project. The judge also ordered Levandowski to pay over $700,000 in restitution.

Levandowski was a Google

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The court in Planner 5D v. Facebook, one of the first cases about trade secrets in artificial intelligence datasets, has granted the motion to dismiss on the copyright claims and denied the motion on the trade secret claims.

Trade secrets. The court held that the amended complaint sufficiently pleaded that the Planner 5D data files were trade secrets and that the defendants used improper means to acquire those trade secrets.

Defendants first argued that the Planner 5D files were not trade secrets. Princeton contended that Planner 5D designed its website to transmit object or scene data files to users’ browsers, where they were automatically stored in the browser’s cache, which enabled any user to access and reproduce those files. While the terms of use prohibited downloading material generally and prohibited using scraping tools, the terms of use expressly excluded “page caching” from the list of prohibited activities. Princeton relied on multiple exhibits and a declaration purportedly showing these technical details, but the court rejected much of that evidence because courts typically do not consider extrinsic evidence (e.g., exhibits not attached to the complaint) to resolve a motion to dismiss.
Continue Reading Planner 5D v. Facebook: Trade Secrets and Copyright Update

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One of the ways trade secret disputes differ from other IP litigation is that in a trade secret dispute it is not always clear what the intellectual property actually is. Trade secrets aren’t disclosed to the patent office or registered like trademarks. Nor are they as clearly defined as copyrights. Thus, a threshold question in every trade secret case is what the trade secrets actually are. This creates a natural tension, as the very definition of a trade secret includes that it be kept secret. Nonetheless, litigation cannot proceed in the dark and there must be some disclosure at some time before a case can be meaningfully resolved. Courts vary widely in their approach to the what and the when of these disclosures. Some require detailed specificity before any discovery can occur, sometimes even at the pleading stage. Other courts are more lenient and will allow discovery to proceed without first requiring early and detailed disclosures.
Continue Reading Sedona Conference Lists Principles for Identification of Trade Secrets

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Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California held a hearing last week to address 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss by Facebook and Princeton University in UAB “Planner5D” v. Facebook, Inc., et al., Case No. 19-CV-03132 (N.D. Cal.). This appears to be one of the first trade secret misappropriation and copyright cases relating to artificial intelligence datasets.

Plaintiff Planner 5D has a website with a home design tool to allow customers to digitally design their own home, office, or landscape. As alleged by Planner 5D, the tool uses thousands of object and scene files as seed data sets to train machine learning algorithms. The complaint alleges that Princeton used software tools to obtain secret internet addresses where the object and scene files were hidden and then scraped the website to obtain the files, ultimately making the data available to Princeton researchers. Princeton then allegedly shared that data with Facebook. Planner 5D contends that, although the images themselves are viewable on the internet, the underlying datafiles and secret internet addresses that were scraped by Princeton, as well as the file locations, are trade secrets.
Continue Reading Planner 5D v. Facebook: Trade Secrets and Artificial Intelligence Hearing

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On May 8, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1450, making it more difficult for employers to enforce noncompete agreements. The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and limits the employees who can be bound by noncompete agreements, creates penalties for employers’ noncompliance, and invalidates existing noncompete agreements that do not align with

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Zomm, LLC (“Zomm”) sued Apple Inc. (“Apple”) in April 2018, asserting claims for patent infringement, breach of contract, and unfair competition.  On June 17, 2019, the District Court dismissed Zomm’s breach of contract claim, which relates to Apple’s alleged violation of a confidentiality agreement that the parties executed for purposes of sharing information about the