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Trade Secrets & the Internet


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11/6/1999 4:00 PM
Jack
Trade Secrets & the Internet
What happens to the trade secrets in those expensive boutique amps once the schematic is posted on the 'net? The court opinion in the following case tells you:  
 
Religious Technology Center v. Lerma, 1995 U.S. Dist. Lexis 17833 (E.D. Va. November 28, 1995):  
The Court cited Religious Technology Centers v. Netcon On-Line Communications, Inc., No. C-95-20091 (N.D. Calif., September 22, 1995) that "posting works to the Internet makes them 'generally known' at least to the relevant persons interested in the new group." Once a trade secret is posted on the Internet, it is effectively part of the public domain, impossible to retrieve. Although the person who originally posted the trade secret on the Internet may be liable for trade secret misappropriation, the person who merely downloads Internet information cannot be liable for trade secret misappropriation because there is no misconduct involved in interacting with Internet.
 
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11/6/1999 8:16 PM
tboy

Good one Jack! Where'dja find it?  
 
Now I'm wondering just exactly what is meant by "misappropriation." I would take it to mean something on the order of breaking the famous Dumble secrecy agreement, or obtaining secret information by some illegal means, but the way the quote is worded, it seems to suggest that the act of posting such material on the net may itself be "misappropriation."  
 
--tboy
 
11/6/1999 8:29 PM
Gil Ayan

Interesting article. Now, regarding Mr. Dumble, there is the Secrecy Agreement which has to be signed and notarized before the amp is delivered to the buyer. OF course, the agreement says that one will not allowed the amp to be opened, copied, etc. However, I would believe the person bound by that agreement is he who signs it; so if someone sells the amp and the second owner decides to open it up, etc., the only thing that ME. Dumble might be able to do is sue the first owner for selling the amp to a hack.  
 
What about 3rd, 4th and nth hand amps? I guess you would need a very costly procedure to establish the chain of ownership of an amp to track the original person that "broke," unbeknownst to him, the secre agreement.  
 
Gil
 
11/6/1999 10:58 PM
Hi

There used to be this horn player in New Orleans, King something-or-other (*not* King Curtis) who would put a handkerchief over his right hand so other horn players wouldn't cop his technique... as if they couldn't tell...  
This whole Dumble secrecy thing is like that. Even if everybody knows how to make something, no one would build each individual model uniquely like a unique individual like Mr. Dumble would actually do. Anyone making a Dumble clone, technical manufacturing firm or boutique maker, would turn out something kind of like a Dumble but not exactly. Like any horn player could have told what that guy was doing, but couldn't have done it exactly the same anyway.  
Hi
 
11/7/1999 12:04 AM
Don Symes

the act of posting such material on the net may itself be "misappropriation."  
 
It is - the person posting the trade-secret information to the public domain without owning the right to do so has committed an actionable act.  
 
I'm no lawyer, but I expect that even if you buy a Dumble amp ninteenth hand, the design and execution of the circuit are trade secrets. Trade secrets can have a separate life from copyrights and patents.  
 
Jack, since you seem to have the ability to do legal research and not go blind, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me how and where I'm wrong. (please)
 
11/7/1999 1:56 AM
Jack

quote:
"I'm no lawyer, but I expect that even if you buy a Dumble amp ninteenth hand, the design and execution of the circuit are trade secrets. Trade secrets can have a separate life from copyrights and patents."
 
 
Unless there is something in the design that is unusual or difficult to duplicate, there is no trade secret and the non-disclosure agreement would not be enforceable. Minor changes in well known tone networks or different component values is easily duplicated, even without tracing the circuit.  
 
From a recent court ruling:  
"If information can be readily duplicated without involving considerable time, effort or expense, then it is not a secret. Computer Care v. Service Syst. Enter. Inc., 982 F.2d 1063, 1072 [25 USPQ2d 1020] (7th Cir. 1992). Simply stated, there cannot be trade secret if the alleged secret can be easily duplicated. Filter Dynamics Intern., Inc. v. Astron Battery, Inc., 19 Ill.App.3d 299, 311"  
 
-JACK  
N.E.2d 386, 399 [183 USPQ 102] (2nd Dist. 1974).
 
11/7/1999 2:06 AM
Jack

quote:
"Now I'm wondering just exactly what is meant by "misappropriation." I would take it to mean something on the order of breaking the famous Dumble secrecy agreement, or obtaining secret information by some illegal means"
 
 
It was also recently ruled that "dumpster diving" was misappropriation, even if the trade secret material was discarded without being shredded, since access to the dumpster involved criminal trespass.  
 
There must be a secret before there can be a trade secret agreement. From what I've read, just changing component values or making minor alterations to well-known circuits would not qualify for protection.  
 
-JACK
 

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