As everyone knows, in June, the United Kingdom passed the BREXIT referendum (driven by British voters), voting to exit the European Union. What affect does BREXIT have on intellectual property rights in the United Kingdom and the European Union? There is a two-year process of negotiation between the UK and the EU, provided for by
By: Eric Caligiuri
On July 11, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in a unanimous en banc decision in The Medicines Co. v. Hospira Inc., Federal Circuit case number 2014-1469, that to be “on sale” under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. § 102(b), a product must be the subject of a…
So what is a trade secret? Generally, a trade secret is information that the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep secret, derives independent economic value from not being generally known, and cannot be readily ascertainable by proper means, such as reverse engineering or independent development. Many businesses rely on trade secret protection rather than…
In business, there are numerous opportunities for pitfalls, mistakes and errors and they come up in all different legal areas – from basic formation issues to labor and employment to intellectual property. Mistakes and missteps involving intellectual property can be particularly problematic because IP is a company asset; it constitutes a part of (often a significant part of) a company’s valuation. In my 20 years working with start-up companies – and even fully grown-up companies, I have seen mistakes involving company intellectual property prove to be disastrous. With careful planning and good counsel, these mistakes are completely avoidable.
#1. Failure To Transfer the IP From The Founder Into the Company. It is a foundational item for any company – if the company is being formed around a piece of IP or if a piece of IP is intended for use by a company, the company should make sure the founder that owns the IP must contribute it to the company. While a very basic issue, this problem plagues more start-ups than you can imagine. Most often it happens during the informal, pre-formation time frame when founders are kicking around an idea and developing code and no one has consulted a lawyer. Conflict between the founders develop and there is a divergence of opinion on the value brought to the table by the non-developer founders; the developers decide to split with the IP and form a new company. While this will likely generate lawsuits just as soon as the developer’s company is in a financing round, the non-developer founders will very likely not receive as much as they would have had the IP been properly assigned to the company.
Companies and employers around the country seek to protect their intellectual property by, among other things, using non-compete provisions in employment agreements. Generally, these provisions are intended to prevent an employee from soliciting or doing business with a former employer’s customer/clients over a set period of time and/or in regard to a set geographical area. Under California law, and specifically Business and Professions Code section 16600, such provisions are unenforceable unless they fall within one of the statutory exceptions, i.e., primarily in connection with the sale of a business interest. For years, although California state courts would refuse to enforce such provisions under section 16600, federal courts in California sometimes applied a narrow court-created exception and allow such provisions to be enforced provided that they were narrowly tailored as to time and geographical area. In 2008, the California Supreme Court unequivocally ruled that such provisions were unenforceable under section 16600 and rejected the “narrowly restricted” exception used by federal courts. (See Edwards v. Arthur Andersen, LP, 44 Cal.4th 937 (2008).)
In response to the Edwards decision, many California companies and employers began to omit such provisions from their new employment agreements or re-write them with specific language restricting an employee from using trade secret information to unfairly compete. However, other companies and employers left their old agreements untouched and in place thinking merely that they would not enforce them should the need arise. A recent court decision, Couch v. Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. (E.D. Cal. Aug. 7, 2015), reveals the risk an employer or company faces in failing to update their older employment agreements to remove or revise such provisions.