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Find the right venue for misappropriated trade secrets relief

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

Speed matters. We see it in the debate over internet neutrality. No one wants to be left in the dust. In business, the need for speed is especially important in protecting trade secrets. Information zips around the world in the blink of an eye and if that information happens to include proprietary secrets, a business's financial viability could be at risk.

The notion of the value of speed is something ensconced in legal theory. On the criminal side, the concept of swift justice traces back to the Magna Carta and even earlier. The U.S. Constitution's notion of a speedy jury trial is spelled out in the Sixth Amendment.

On the civil side, speed is still desirable but it's not a documented right. So when preserving trade secrets is imperative, what are your options? A check with an experienced intellectual property attorney can supply the answer.

Venue matters

Court is likely to be the first place that comes to mind for seeking recourse over compromised trade secrets. However, some legal observers note that a recent International Trade Commission decision makes that venue a potentially more attractive place, when it's available and when a preliminary injunction is not viable, to start in order to more quickly protect yourself from competition from foreign imports that use your trade secrets.

The case involved a dispute between a Wisconsin crane company and a Chinese competitor. The Wisconsin firm accused the Chinese firm of trade secret violations in 2013. In 2014, an ITC administrative law judge ruled for the U.S. company. The full commission and a federal circuit court later upheld that decision.

While that case was going on, action in the District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin had been on hold. When it resumed, the court looked at the proceedings by the ITC and eventually concluded there was nothing more to adjudicate. The ITC decision thus precluded action by the District Court.

This is seen as important because where federal court cases can take years, Defense of Trade Secrets Act complaints filed with the ITC tend to be handled faster. And if the District Court's decision stands as precedent, it could mean swifter and conclusive justice in such cases in the future.

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