From Law.Com and its Legaltech news former Microsoft CTO Adrian Clarke (Evident Proof) reports on the technology of Blockchain and its purported major security benefits for the supply ecosystem. “The blockchain is a transaction ledger that is uneditable and virtually unhackable. New information can be written onto the blockchain, but the previous information (stored in what are known as blocks) can’t be adjusted. Every single block (or piece of data) added to the chain is given an encrypted identity. Cryptography effectively connects the contents of each newly added block with each block that came before it. So any change to the contents of a previous block on a chain would invalidate the data in all blocks after it.” Clarke’s report here is perhaps some comfort for an exponentially growing sector of the world wide economy which relies on supply chain management on a massive scale. See his piece in Law Journal Newsletters at http://tinyurl.com/y7mqfnem
Attorneys Bill Cheng and John Frank Weaver at McLane Middleton, P.A. in New Hampshire posted this piece in the NH Business Review at: http://tinyurl.com/yblh6nqp regarding the interaction between Blockchain and Bitcoin and how the GDPR for example will struggle to deal with these technologies, given the protections that GDPR attempts to provide to data owners so that they can control their personal information and data. Blockchain, particularly in conjunction with Bitcoin as the currency for a Blockchain secured transaction will prove a challenge to the GDPR rules. CTOs, Industrial Engineers and Supply Chain designers have big decisions to make in the years to come regarding security and whether Blockchain is the answer to some data protection issues. Photo courtesy of Law.Com.
Posted by Henry M. Sneath, EsquireCo-Chair Litigation Practice Group and Chair of the IP Practice Group: Houston Harbaugh, P.C.401 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222. Sneath is also an Adjunct Professor of Law teaching two courses; Trade Secret Law and the Law of Trademarks and Unfair Competition at Duquesne University School of Law.Please contact Mr. Sneath at 412-288-4013 firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) develops, there is an increasing need to “sense” changes in the atmospherics which surround semiconductors. In other words, the working chips must get smarter and smarter and have feel! Some of that AI feel in chips is being supplied by sensing chips – the layered structure of wafers of semiconductor material which can “sense” changes in the environment it is measuring or into which it is placed. Gas sensors are particularly important and patent applications for these devices are on the upswing internationally, with Sony and Samsung leading the way. See Relecura article at http://tinyurl.com/ybrojuq2
Edaphic Scientific describes a gas sensor’s performance as follows: “Semiconductor gas sensors rely on a gas coming into contact with a metal oxide surface and then undergoing either oxidation or reduction. The absorption or desorption of the gas on the metal oxide changes either the conductivity or resistivity from a known baseline value. This change in conductivity or resistivity can be measured with electronic circuitry. Usually the change in conductivity or resistivity is a linear and proportional relationship with gas concentration. Therefore, a simple calibration equation can be established between resistivity/conductivity change and gas concentration.” http://tinyurl.com/y6ufz7vx
The IoT relies on smarter and smarter technology as it governs many things around us. Products will have this smarter and smarter technology and converting “sensing” into electronic circuitry will likely have a positive impact on performance, but will present new challenges as products fail and cause damage to person or property. How deep a dive will be required in products liability litigation for example when a “sensor chip” fails to sense. Sensor chips have been around for a while, but they are becoming tremendously sophisticated and integral to the virtual world in which we operate.
Is Quantum Computing the next Tech frontier? Collaboration between researchers at Google and UC Santa Barbara are working on super computing qubits which might lead to “quantum supremacy” in the computing world. One chief researcher describes it as the desire to “perform an algorithm or computation that couldn’t be done otherwise.” Where classical computers function in two states, zeroes and ones – qubits perform in three states with the extra state being a “superposition” of both zero and one “raising exponentially the number of possible states a quantum system can explore.” For more details seePhys.ORG
From Legal Tech News and ALM comes a good lawyer practice tip report from Federal Judges Sallie Kim and Xavier Rodriguez. Major hint is for lawyers to go back and read the 2015 revisions to the Federal Rules which govern discovery, data collection and electronic productions of documents. Read the article here on ALM/Legal Tech: http://tinyurl.com/yclmj9hv
Walmart has applied for a Drone Pollinator presented in the recently published application as “Systems and Methods for Pollinating Crops Via Unmanned Vehicles.” Here is Application # US2018/0065749 A1 at this link from FreshPatents.com: http://images2.freshpatents.com/pdf/US20180065749A1.pdf
The PTO App abstract describes essentially the same process used by Bees, and scientists at Walmart, Harvard and many other institutions have been working to create an efficient way to pollinate many of the plants from which we get our food during the last two decades of declining bee populations. Here is a good article from Science Alert detailing and linking to some of the efforts to create a drone pollinator:http://tinyurl.com/y93a7z7y
Here is a photo of the Harvard latest edition drone “RoboBee” which allegedly cannot yet be remotely controlled. The Walmart patent claims such an ability. We will follow.
Posted by Henry M. Sneath, Esq. at HoustonHarbaugh, P.C. in Pittsburgh, Pa.
From our friends at Law.Com: In the growing market for cyber insurance, carriers are trying to compete on price. One carrier, Coalition is offering discounts if your company creates a partnership with a “white hat hacker” and establishes a bug bounty with that hacker. The hacker gets a bounty for finding vulnerabilities. Legal Tech author Rhys Dipshandetails the program in the article at this link: http://tinyurl.com/ydck3nxg
Dipshan reports that “bug bounties” are becoming a popular weapon in combating cyber attacks. “Unsurprisingly” Dipshan reports, “bounty programs are becoming increasingly common in the tech and corporate world, with companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Uber offering compensation for vulnerability disclosures. They also have caught on in the federal government as well, with the Department of Defense launching its “Hack the Pentagon” and “Hack the Air Force” programs.” Do you need a cyber bounty hunter?
In an apparent case of first impression, a divided three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently held that an employer does not owe a legal duty to its employees to protect the employees’ electronically stored personal and financial information. In Dittman v. UPMC, decided on January 12, 2017 (docket no. 971 WDA 2015), the Superior Court affirmed an opinion of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, PA (opinion by the Honorable R. Stanton Wettick, Jr.), sustaining defendant University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (“UPMC”) preliminary objections to an employee class action suit. The suit arose from a data breach of the employees’ personal information, which was provided to UPMC as a condition of employment.
The employees sued UPMC for negligence and breach of contract after their names, birth dates, social security numbers, tax information, addresses, salaries and bank information were stolen due to the data breach. Specifically, they alleged that UPMC failed to properly encrypt data, establish adequate firewalls and implement adequate authentication protocols to protect the information in its computer network. All of UPMC’s 62,000 employees and former employees were affected by the breach. Appellants consisted of two separate but overlapping classes. One class alleged that the stolen information had already been used to file fraudulent tax returns and steal the tax refunds of certain employees. The other class consisted of those who had not suffered this harm but alleged that they were at increased and imminent risk of becoming victims of identity theft crimes, fraud and abuse.
To determine whether a duty of care exists, the Pennsylvania courts look to five factors, none of which are determinative alone. Seebold v. Prison Health Servs., Inc., 57 A.3d 1232, 1243 (Pa. 2012); Althaus ex. rel. Althaus v. Cohen, 756 A.2d 1166, 1169 (Pa. 2000). The five factors are:
the relationship between the parties;
the social utility of the actor’s conduct;
the nature of the risk imposed and foreseeability of the harm incurred;
the consequences of imposing a duty upon the actor; and
the overall public interest in the proposed solution.
In Dittman, the court found that the first factor weighed in favor of finding a duty because the employer-employee relationship gives rise to duties on the employer. The court next weighed the second factor against the third: the need of employers to collect and store personal information about their employees against the risk of storing information electronically and the foreseeability of data breaches. The court concluded:
While a data breach (and its ensuing harm) is generally foreseeable, we do not believe that this possibility outweighs the social utility of electronically storing employee information. In the modern era, more and more information is stored electronically and the days of keeping documents in file cabinets are long gone. Without doubt,employees and consumers alike derive substantial benefits from efficiencies resulting from the transfer and storage of electronic data. Although breaches of electronically stored data are a potential risk, this generalized risk does not outweigh the social utility of maintaining electronically stored information. We note here that Appellants do not allege that UPMC encountered a specific threat of intrusion into its computer systems.
Analysis of the fourth factor looks to the consequences of imposing a duty. In this situation, the court considered that data breaches are widespread and that there is no safe harbor for entities storing confidential information. It was also the court’s opinion that no judicially created duty of care is needed to incentivize companies to protect confidential employee information because other statutes and safeguards are in place to prevent employers from disclosing confidential information. Thus, the court concluded that “it unnecessary to require employers to incur potentially significant costs to increase security measures when there is no true way to prevent data breaches altogether. Employers strive to run their businesses efficiently and they have an incentive to protect employee information and prevent these types of occurrences.”
Finally, the fifth factor looks to whether there is a public interest in imposing a duty. The Superior Court found persuasive the reasoning of the trial court that imposing a duty here would greatly expend judicial resources and would result in judicial activism. The Superior Court agreed with the trial court that the Pennsylvania legislature has considered the same issues and chose only to impose a duty of notification of a data breach. “It is not for the courts to alter the direction of the General Assembly because public policy is a matter for the legislature.”
Weighing all five factors, the court held that the factors weighed against imposing a duty. Judge Stabile filed a concurring opinion, which Judge Olson, the writer for the majority opinion, joined. Judge Stabile agreed with the ruling but emphasized that the law in this area is quickly changing and that the ruling was based on the facts pled in that particular case. One of the key facts for Judge Stabile was the fact that the employees had not alleged that UPMC was on notice of any specific security threat. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Musmanno concluded that allegations that UPMC failed to properly encrypt data, establish adequate fire walls and implement appropriate authentication protocols was sufficient to allege that UPMC knew or should have known that there was a likelihood data would be stolen. Judge Musmanno also disagreed with the majority’s assumption that employers are sufficiently incentivized to protect employee data without a duty imposed upon them to do so.
The employees filed a motion for reconsideration and reargument on January 26, 2017. Thus, the Superior Court’s January 2017 opinion may not be the final word on the issue.
Dittman is interesting in the world of data breach lawsuits because it does not address standing. Many data breach defendants have relied upon the theory that plaintiffs lack standing to bring claims for data breaches where plaintiffs cannot prove actual harm from the breach. Proof of actual harm can be challenging because evidence regarding the use of the stolen information may be difficult to find. Here, standing was not discussed by the Superior Court. In the trial court below, UPMC had argued that the claims against it should be dismissed on the grounds that the employees lacked standing to assert claims on behalf of employees who had not yet been injured. UPMC also asserted that the employees’ negligence and breach of implied contract claims failed as a matter of law. After oral argument on these issues, the trial court ordered both parties to file supplemental briefs on the issue of whether UPMC owed a duty to its employees with respect to the handling of their personal and financial data. This ultimately proved to be the issue that the trial court and the Superior Court found to be determinative.
Posted by: DTSALAW.Com and DefendTradeSecretsAct.LawyerHenry M. Sneath, Esq. – Chair of the Intellectual Property Practice Group at Pittsburgh, Pa. law firm Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. (PSMN® and PSMNLaw®). Mr. Sneath is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Duquesne University School of Law teaching Trade Secret Law, Trademark Law and the Law of Unfair Competition. He may be contacted email@example.com or 412-288-4013. See Websites www.psmn.com or www.DTSALaw.com.
The new DTSA federal civil remedy statute is already generating lawsuits being filed in Federal Courts. Two suits were recently filed in the Southern District of Florida with jurisdiction being claimed pursuant to the Defend Trade Secrets Act 2016 (DTSA). One case was also filed in the Northern District of Texas. See links to the cases below. In each Florida case, the plaintiff not only claimed trade secret misappropriation under the DTSA, but also under the Florida UTSA state statute (FUTSA). The Texas case brings claims under DTSA and the TUTSA along with pendent state law claims. This may become the trend as the DTSA and state statutes modeled after the Uniform Trade Secret Act describe trade secrets and misappropriation somewhat differently and provide, in some cases, different remedies. The differences in “definitions” between DTSA and the UTSA are not major, but they may make a difference if either is left out of a complaint filed in federal court. We will monitor this trend and post in the future on new filings.
Interestingly, while both Florida cases seek injunctive relief in the complaint’s claims for relief, neither docket shows the filing of a separate Motion for TRO, Preliminary Injunction or motion for other injunctive relief. The Dean case brings only trade secret misappropriation claims under the DTSA and the FUTSA state statute. The Bonamar case brings claims under DTSA and FUTSA and a number of pendent State Law claims that you would expect to see in an employment related, non-disclosure, breach of covenants/contract case. In the Texas case, the plaintiff has filed an emergency motion for TRO under both state and federal law and a hearing is set for May 26, 2016. The motion and brief are linked below. Here are links to the cases on our website.
Posted onMay 1, 2016byHenry Sneath|Comments Off on Big IP NEWS: Defend Trade Secrets Act 2016 (DTSA) Passes Congress – President to sign
Posted by Henry M. Sneath, Esq. – Chair of the Intellectual Property Practice Group at Pittsburgh, Pa. law firm Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. (PSMN® and PSMNLaw®). Mr. Sneath is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Duquesne University School of Law teaching Trade Secret Law, Trademark Law and the Law of Unfair Competition. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-288-4013. Website www.psmn.com or www.psmn.law.
The US Congress has passed the landmark Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) and it is set for the President’s signature. It will soon be law. See Link to DTSA Legislation here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1890/text Trade Secret law has long been the province of the States, more or less exclusively, and except for criminal protections against trade secret theft and economic espionage, there has been no Federal civil law providing a federal damages remedy for such theft. Amended will be Crimes and Criminal Procedures – Title 18, Chapter 90, Section 1836 and the key provision is as follows:
“(1) IN GENERAL.—An owner of a trade secret that is misappropriated may bring a civil action under this subsection if the trade secret is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce.”
Congress has now added a civil remedy provision to Federal protection of Trade Secrets wherein prior Federal law only provided criminal sanctions. This has been described as a major new development in Federal IP law and will provide federal jurisdiction for Trade Secret Misappropriation cases. The law will NOT preempt nor change State laws and therefore actions will be brought in both federal and state court jurisdictions. Most states (48) have adopted a form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) and actions can still be brought under those state statutes, but those statutes vary to some degree. The DTSA is very similar to the UTSA based state court statutes, but there will be differences depending on the state jurisdiction from which cases are brought or removed. DTSA will apply to any acts of trade secret misappropriation that take place AFTER the act is signed into law (not retroactive). The Statute of Limitations will be 3 years according to the actual text linked above, but some commentators have stated that it is 5 years (we will need to check to get accurate information on the SOL and will follow up).
The DTSA contains an important and somewhat controversial “Civil Seizure” provision which renders it different from most state laws and which reads:
“(i) APPLICATION.—Based on an affidavit or verified complaint satisfying the requirements of this paragraph, the court may, upon ex parte application but only in extraordinary circumstances, issue an order providing for the seizure of property necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret that is the subject of the action.”
This provision is controversial because it can be ordered by a court ex-parte. By amendment, the words “but only in extraordinary circumstances” were added to attempt to mollify some critics of this provision. However, there are some strict limitations to the ex-parte injunctions and a couple of them are below:
“(ii) REQUIREMENTS FOR ISSUING ORDER.—The court may not grant an application under clause (i) unless the court finds that it clearly appears from specific facts that—
“(I) an order issued pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or another form of equitable relief would be inadequate to achieve the purpose of this paragraph because the party to which the order would be issued would evade, avoid, or otherwise not comply with such an order;
“(II) an immediate and irreparable injury will occur if such seizure is not ordered.”
Such ex-parte injunctions must be very specific and the court must go to great lengths not to overreach or to punish through publicity an accused wrongdoer during the period of seizure. There are other typical requirements for injunctions like posting of security and careful management of the seized materials, and the accused wrongdoer has a right of action back against the claimant if the seizure turns out to be wrongful or excessive.
In an action for misappropriation, a court may order injunctive relief and may
“(i) (I) damages for actual loss caused by the misappropriation of the trade secret; and
“(II) damages for any unjust enrichment caused by the misappropriation of the trade secret that is not addressed in computing damages for actual loss; or
“(ii) in lieu of damages measured by any other methods, the damagescaused by the misappropriation measured by imposition of liability for a reasonable royalty for the misappropriator’s unauthorized disclosure or use of the trade secret;
“(C) if the trade secret is willfully and maliciously misappropriated, award exemplary damages in an amount not more than 2 times the amount of the damages awarded under subparagraph (B); and
“(D) if a claim of the misappropriation is made in bad faith, which may be established by circumstantial evidence, a motion to terminate an injunction is made or opposed in bad faith, or the trade secret was willfully and maliciouslymisappropriated, award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.”
It is unclear as to how this bill will be enforced against foreign Trade Secret theft, or if there will even be jurisdiction under this act for such claims. We will follow up on that issue in future posts. See the Senate and House reports below which contain a substantial amount of background legislative history and commentary. Contact us for additional information. We will continue to study this new law and report to our readers.
Posted by Henry M. Sneath, Esq. – Chair of the Intellectual Property Group at Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. (PSMN® and PSMNLaw®) in Pittsburgh, Pa. He may be contacted at email@example.com or 412-288-4013. Website www.psmn.com or www.psmn.law
From “ars technica“* publication: One of the largest patent verdict cases ever was obtained by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh Federal District Court in 2012 in the courtroom of the Hon. Nora Barry Fischer as presiding judge. CMU won a $1.17 billion jury verdict in 2012 and the court enhanced the verdict to $1.54 Billion. The Federal Circuit cut the win significantly, by reducing the damages and eliminating the enhanced damages award, but kept the main verdict intact. The case was just settled here in Pittsburgh for $750 Million. It will allegedly be the second largest payment ever in a technology patent case. A thorough article on the matter with good links to the case history appears at web publication ars technica*(http://tinyurl.com/zwb26wg ).