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Smartbook legal nonsense: Qualcomm reply

Remember our odd partial-fax from the legal beagles of Germany firm Smartbook AG earlier this month?  The company had made a name for itself by attempting to dissuade bloggers and news sources – sometimes with threats of legal action – from using the term “smartbook”, claiming it holds the trademark and would aggressively protect it from misuse.  We asked Qualcomm if they had anything to say on the matter, and their legal team has given us a statement.  Apparently, Smartbook AG haven’t been quite as upfront as they might have been, and in fact the German courts have given them a spanking of their own over misrepresentation of their restraining order.

Qualcomm reckon the term “smartbook” is a generic one, and are attempting to have the trademark revoked; in the meantime, Smartbook AG have a temporary restraining order – effective in Germany only – preventing Qualcomm from using the term without a disclaimer about the current ownership.  However the order only applies to Qualcomm, not to any other company – inside or outside Germany – or news organization, and Smartbook AG have been slapped with a temporary restraining order of their own for misrepresenting exactly what the courts had ruled.

What does this mean?  Well, we’re not lawyers (we just dress like them sometimes) but it seems like Smartbook AG’s legal wiggling was not only over-egged but unsupported by their actual rights as German trademark holders.  Business as usual then, for us and everyone else; now we just have to pin down exactly what the difference between a smartbook and a netbook is…

Smartbook AG has obtained a Temporary Restraining Order in Germany against Qualcomm. We are complying with the decision, which requires Qualcomm not to use the word “smartbook” on any internet site in Germany without a disclaimer that the rights in the mark in Germany are owned by Smartbook AG. We are contesting the temporary order and are taking steps to cancel the trademark, which we contend is a generic and descriptive term that should not have been allowed as a mark in the first place. The Temporary Restraining Order applies only to Qualcomm; to our knowledge no other orders were issued.

The German court did not extend its provisional order to other parties; nor does it reach outside Germany; and nor does it prevent news organisations from reporting news. Further, it does not actually prohibit the use of the term; it allows the use of the term with the appropriate disclaimer. [Qualcomm was recently granted a Temporary Restraining Order in Germany against Smartbook AG which now prevents Smartbook AG from misrepresenting the terms of the order against Qualcomm, both on Smartbook AG’s website and in letters to the media.] In fact Smartbook AG has now revised its website to correct these misrepresentations of the scope of the TRO.

Since Smartbook AG’s action against Qualcomm, it has been seeking to register “smart” trademarks in other countries. The European Union and other countries have rejected these efforts on the grounds that the term “smartbook” is generic. Smartbook AG has also publicly stated it would sell the rights to the registered German trademark. Presumably, the campaign to expand the trademark registrations and the attempts to force journalists and others not to use the term are attempts to increase the sales value of the trademark.” Qualcomm statement

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Is Soap2Day Safe? Legal Considerations

Several websites, apps, and streaming services enable people to watch movies or television shows for free, and Soap2Day is one of them.

It is an amazing website and consists of a pool of latest as well as old movies.

However, Sopa2Day has recently announced that it has shut down its services.

Moreover, Soap2Day is not entirely safe. The claim made by Soap2Day of being the most trustable and secure website may not be accurate. Although it’s unusual for the average user to encounter a virus the moment they visit the website, the likelihood is very high.

Continue reading to discover more about Soap2Day, its features and limitations, whether it is safe, and ways to use it safely.

What Is Soap2day?

Soap2day is a well-known website for streaming movies and shows online where you can watch different genres of movies and series for free.

It is an online streaming platform that provides users with free access to thousands of the latest movies and web series with good stream quality.

Features Of Soap2day

Soap2Day is immensely popular nowadays with its wide range of features.

Here are some features that make Soap2Day a popular streaming service;

1. Variable Domain

Soap2Day has many domains and mirrors links that mimic websites similar to it.

Moreover, there is a pool of domains for Soap2Day and, thus, URLs with varying speeds and status.

2. User Friendly

Soap2Day also offers a mobile application for users who don’t own a laptop/PC or those who like to watch movies on their phones.

3. Free Of Cost

We can access the premium features of Soap2Day without paying a dime.

All you need to have is full access to the content library of the site, an excellent internet connection, and mainly your hobby of watching movies.  

4. Abundance Of Movies And Series

Thousands of titles in every genre and subgenre, including action, comedy, history, thrillers, sports, and more, are currently available on Soap2Day.

You will likely locate the movie or television show you want to watch on the website.

5. Excellent Stream Quality

Lagging or buffering of movies is never an issue on Soap2Day.

It offers an excellent watching experience possible with its fast-loading pace and continuous streaming feature.

Limitations Of Soap2Day

Despite having a wide variety of features, there are also some limitations to using Soap2Day, which are as follows:

1. Necessity To Use Extensions For Ad Blockers

That’s why the need of ad blocker extensions is much needed to avoid such an issue.

2. Low Audio And Video Quality

Without the premium feature of Soap2Day, users may experience poor quality of the movie they are watching and may also face poor video quality even at a higher internet speed.

3. Clone Sites

Generally, the resources appearing in the Soap2Day search box are duplicates, which is extremely poor in quality. Moreover, they contain a lot of ad pages and broken links.

4. Unnecessary Content 

Soap2Day also contains NSFW content such as sex, crime, and violence which may not be suitable for people of different ages, including children.

Is Soap2day Safe? Its Legal Considerations

The answer is NO. All the contents available on Soap2Day are fully copyrighted; therefore, it is illegal.

However, using these streaming services to watch content may also fall under the legal gray area.

According to the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2023 (PLSA), illegally hosting a movie or series is considered “infringing public performance” in the United States.

The consequences of such acts vary in different countries. Many nations ignore the act of simply watching movies on those websites.

A virus known as PUP (Potentially Unwanted Program) can spread hazardous elements that negatively affect a user’s browsing experience.

Moreover, it is a piracy website that violates the cinematography rule and may encounter copyright issues.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, streaming or downloading copyrighted content without authorization is explicitly forbidden and is a considerably more serious offense.

However, it is a complicated topic to debate whether watching movies from unauthorized platforms is okay.

Risks Of Using Soap2Day

Demerits of such websites include defecting your laptop or cell phone via suspicious malware.

Possible harms that the user may experience using Soap2Day are as follows:

Gathering sensitive data in the form of cookies

Redirecting consumers to duplicate search engines

Accessing the user’s geolocation

Collecting the user’s browser history and IP address

Tips To Use Soap2day Safely

Here are some safety concerns that must be considered while browsing Soap2Day:

Avoid downloading any malware suggested by the website.

Make sure to read reviews before signing up for streaming services.

Is Soap2Day Shutting Down?

The well-known movie piracy website “Soap2Day,” which offered free streaming of the newest films and television shows, has been shut down.

The official website has ceased its operation without any valid explanations or reasons.

All linked domains, including Soapgate and the previously active domains chúng tôi and soapgate.cc, which gave updates on Soap2day’s status, is closed.

Continue reading to discover whether Freedom GPT and Kobold AI are safe for users.

The Bottom Line

Nevertheless, streaming movies from Soap2Day is still improper since the government strictly condemns such acts.

There is a chance that you may have to go through legal judgments in any case apart.

While Soap2Day may seem the easiest way to watch movies as it provides free content, it is necessary to be cautious while browsing this site. 

Continue reading to discover whether beta Character AI and Curseforge are safe again.

Guiding Your Legal Department’s Digital Transformation

Many legal professionals are realizing that their firms must transform in order to succeed. As the demand for digital services has grown, law firms have had to adapt and change their practices to ensure they’re prepared for any next−gen requests. This means it can be difficult to determine which people you need to focus on hiring or recruiting so you’re properly staffed.

Legal departments are facing a digital transformation, or at least they should be. But while a lot of information out there seems to suggest that this campaign will be ineffective in making its desired effect, it is still important to press ahead and show how much it can benefit the company.

Creating a Case in Legal Departments for Digital Transformation

Digital transformation doesn’t replace lawyers with technology; it’s about how best to put legal talents to their full use. Consider the costly time firms spend reviewing agreements, drafting and reviewing contracts, engaging in discovery, and transcribing correspondence. Many of these tasks are now digitally managed.

Lawyers have a reputation for being very busy people. So, when their time is spent more efficiently, their business value increases significantly. A recent report from Deloitte said that digital transformation will allow this to happen.

It seems that the transition to modern legal systems is necessary in order for a firm to be competitive and profitable. In a 2023 report by Deloitte, they found that while 83% of general counsels believe that technology would transform in−house legal functions, only 10% of them are on their third wave of digital solutions and there are many firms who still haven’t begun this transition.

NLP Technology

A neuro−linguistic programming software enables computers to understand, read, analyze and interpret human language. Modern legal departments use NLP to create and evaluate legal agreements. Not only is NLP growing in the legal profession, but according to Forbes India, the healthcare industry is adopting its use too.

NLP is the technology that underlies artificial intelligence, and its two main practical applications are−

There’s a lot of information contained in documents that attorneys need. Technology is able to find these documents and help them draft agreements and review contracts more efficiently, helping the legal industry become more efficient overall.

If you want to make good use of a document or recording, information extraction can be a great help. Information extraction is useful for contracts, derivatives traders, and intellectual property attorneys.

Leveraging Cloud

The survey showed that the number one issue for lawyers is poor and worsening cyber security.

Robotics in Legal Departments

Businesses are finding that a great way to streamline and accelerate operations is by using robotic process automation. RPA can eliminate several manual steps involved in typical business processes such as phone calls and email communications. This reduces the chance of overlooking important processing steps, while also improving productivity.

Deploying Artificial Intelligence

The law profession is finally beginning to deliver on its promise of providing digital services. As part of that transition, the legal education community is curating and labeling an open−sourced training dataset of legal contracts for artificial intelligence (AI) research and development.

There is a need for an AI system that can understand the legal text. This technology, however, is reliant on the availability, quality, and transparency of legal documents annotated with expert knowledge.

Attorneys can teach, create training modules, and host workshops to help increase awareness of AI in legal contract review. They’ll also work with AI tools, collaborate with AI and data scientists, and gain a deep understanding of how AI works in their field.

How do Cloud Solutions Help Legal Departments?

Cloud solutions empower legal departments to manage their data, stay in control of important legal matters, and increase the level of legal expertise throughout the company by empowering digital transformation. While legal departments are adopting tools that provide greater control and better collaboration tools, it’s imperative to find a holistic technology platform that can adapt to a variety of compliance and information management challenges.

Business owners need to make sure they balance their overall goal to distinguish themselves from the competition by complying with the law. However, if you’re constantly having to sort through piles of legal information and folders, or your documents are spread across different filing cabinets and servers, it can be a huge drain on resources. Here let’s see how the cloud helps−

Data Loss

The worst−case scenario for any company is discovering that data has been destroyed by a natural or man−made event. 7.5% of files are lost and 3% of them are misfiled every year, often because we don’t have clear business−wide governance on how to securely store, find, and track information. That can lead to $30,000 in losses for every 1,000 documents you manage.

Faultless data protection means that users will enjoy the extra peace of mind. There are several cloud resources available that can protect the data from being lost and also arrange them conveniently at the fingertips.

Wasted Resources

Not paying attention to time−wasting mistakes can cause serious consequences for your company in the long run. Employees might unwittingly contribute to the delay in certain projects, causing risks for your business and delays for your project. If you prefer digital storage and agree that cloud technologies are your best option, then trust that digital data in the cloud will save you money over on premise solutions.

Inefficient Collaboration

A legal system that is central to multiple departments makes it easier to track your organization’s legal matters and delegate tasks. This admin tool can save you time as well as give each department a greater capacity to manage each sector of legal risks. By standardizing contract templates, you reduce the risk of spreading yourself too thin because they require less effort than individually prepared contracts.

Ai Will Help Phone Photos Surpass The Dslr, Says Qualcomm

AI to be the foundation for the future?

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Smartphone photography has massively harnessed machine learning over the years; it’s used for tasks like noise reduction, object/shadow/reflection removal, reducing video judder, and more. This is clearly going to remain one of the biggest focus areas for smartphone brands and chipmakers alike in the next few years, and Heape feels it will actually be the biggest single focus area. He also outlines a few ways that AI will step up in the coming years.

Going forward in the future, we see a lot more AI capability to understand the scene, to understand the difference between skin and hair, and fabric and background and that sort of thing. And all those pixels being handled differently in real-time, not just post-processing a couple of seconds after the snapshot is taken but in real-time during like a camcorder video shoot.

AI is one of the biggest developments in the camera space, and Qualcomm camera bigwig Judd Heape thinks it could handle the entire image capture process in the future.

The use of AI has come some way from the modes first introduced in 2023, but Heape explains that AI in photography can be divided into four stages.

The first stage is pretty basic; AI is used to understand a specific thing in an image or scene. The second stage sees AI control the so-called 3A features, namely auto-focus, auto-white balance, and auto-exposure adjustments. The Qualcomm engineer reckons that the industry is currently at the third stage of the AI photography game, where AI is used to understand the different segments or elements of the scene.

We’re three to five years away from reaching the holy grail of AI photography.

This does indeed appear to be the case right now, as technologies like semantic segmentation and facial/eye recognition leverage AI to recognize specific subjects/objects in a scene and adjust them accordingly. For example, today’s phones can recognize a face and make sure it’s properly exposed, or recognize that the horizon is skewed and suggest you hold the phone properly.

Imagine a world from the future where you’d say ‘I want the picture to look like this National Geographic scene,’ and the AI engine would say ‘okay, I’m going to adjust the colors and the texture and the white balance and everything to look like and feel like this image you just showed me’.

In fact, we’ve seen glimpses of this future with LG phones and the Graphy app in the late 2010s. This app for LG phones allowed you to choose a model photo, with the camera app then adjusting settings like exposure, white balance, and shutter speed to capture a similar result. But presumably, Qualcomm’s vision for this future would entail more granular adjustments to truly capture the look and feel of the desired image.

The processing in Snapdragon is 10 times better than what you can find on the biggest and baddest Nikon and Canon cameras. And that’s why we’re able to really push the barrier on image quality. Because even though we have a small lens and small image sensor, we’re doing many, many times more processing than what’s even capable in a DSLR.

It’s hard to argue otherwise, as the pace of smartphone chip development means we’re still seeing big performance and efficiency gains these days when it comes to camera-related tasks. For example, the Snapdragon 865 series delivered unlimited 960fps slow-motion, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 offers 8K HDR video, and the Snapdragon 888 series introduced simultaneous 4K HDR recording via three cameras. Throw in ever-improving multi-frame processing and smartphones are pushing camera boundaries in impressive ways.

Megapixels versus sensor size

Sony’s DSLR/smartphone prediction comes as the company introduces one-inch sensors to smartphones. We saw the first sensor land on the 20MP Sharp Aquos R6 and 12MP Xperia Pro-I last year, while Xiaomi and Sony also worked together to bring a brand-new 50MP IMX989 one-inch sensor to the Xiaomi 12S Ultra.

But this isn’t the only approach we’ve seen in the smartphone arena. The megapixel war has quietly reignited in the last few years. In 2023 and 2023, 48MP cameras were a big deal, but we’ve since seen 108MP cameras become a common fixture. And the war continued recently with the reveal of the first phone with a 200MP camera. Rumors persist that Samsung could offer a 200MP camera inside next year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra.

We’ve seen a new chapter open in the years-long sensor size versus megapixel war.

Qualcomm’s arch-rival MediaTek already supports 320MP cameras on the Dimensity 9000 series of chips, and Heape thinks this resolution could be the next hopping-off point for the industry. “320MP probably is the next place we’re going to stop,” the Qualcomm representative explained.

There is clearly room for sensors with plenty of megapixels and sensors with bigger pixels, as companies like Samsung and Xiaomi take both approaches. Heape still has a preference, though:

My philosophy is maybe different than some people in the industry where I don’t necessarily think we need hundreds and hundreds of megapixels. I think we need bigger pixels, right? We need to approach the DSLR and maybe take the sweet spot of around 40 or 50MP rather than going 200MP and 300MP. Although there are pushes in the industry to go in both directions.

You have to wonder where we’ll stop in terms of sensor size, given the slim form factor of smartphones. Heape suggests that innovative technologies such as anamorphic lenses could help drive further size increases, but it’ll be a tough ask in the short term.

In the direct near term, no, I don’t see us going above one inch. But in the future, yes, we can probably get there.

The future of specialized hardware and video

Qualcomm

Today’s smartphones also pack dedicated silicon for specific imaging tasks. Sure, you’ve got your image signal processor, as you’d expect. But we’ve also seen chipmakers introducing bokeh engines for depth, as well as hardware for facial detection. It seems inevitable that another task or scenario will soon require a standalone piece of silicon too.

Heape explains that video is currently the biggest focus area for hardware accelerators, pointing to the aforementioned bokeh engine as well as computer vision hardware. But he also teased another addition in future products.

We will have announcements very soon where we’re gonna have dedicated hardware to handle, like I said, different parts of the scene. Hardware to know what to do for pixels that are skin, versus hair, versus fabric, versus sky, versus grass, versus background. Those are the areas — and again those all apply to video — where we really see the need to add specific hardware.

For what it’s worth, semantic image segmentation already allows a smartphone camera to identify various aspects of the image. But this all takes place at a more general level, identifying a sunset, faces, animals, buildings, and flowers, and adjusting camera app settings accordingly. But it certainly sounds like Qualcomm’s upcoming solution will dive deeper, applying camera tweaks on a more detailed level. This could also theoretically be a boon for augmented reality applications by allowing for more granular filters and other effects, but we’ll have to wait for news on this solution.

We’ve seen a rise in hardware dedicated to specific imaging tasks, but video could be the next frontier in this regard.

More broadly, we’ve seen video quality make big strides over the past few years too, but it seems doubtful that we’ll see 8K/60fps soon, given that 8K video in general still seems so niche to start with. Heape agrees, suggesting that 8K/30fps is fine for now.

I think we’ve got the resolution and frame rate to a point now where it won’t change for a while. We’re already shooting in 8K/30. We might go to 8K/60, but it’ll be a few years. It’s a tremendous amount of throughput and frankly what we bump into is power consumption limitations as we go higher and higher.

If anything, we expect more refinements to come for 8K video and below. After all, Qualcomm introduced 8K HDR with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, while recent innovations like super-stable video, AI-powered low-light video, and night hyperlapses take place at 4K or 1080p. We got a taste of this with Apple’s iPhone 14 series, bringing Cinematic video recording at 4K and super-stable video at “2.8K.”

Heape reckons that there is scope for improvements such as better “handling of motion and understanding motion in a scene.” He points to goals like handling motion in videos without ghosting and tackling motion and noise at the same time. “All these basic image quality principles that we tackled using multi-frame techniques in snapshot, we need to handle in real-time for 8K/30 video.”

Don’t bank on quality under-display selfie cameras

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

We reviewed a couple of phones with under-display selfie cameras in the last year or two, and it’s clear that even the latest solutions can’t hold a candle to conventional cameras. In fact, we pitted the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra against mid-range phones a few weeks ago, finding that even a mid-range phone from 2023 could beat ZTE’s under-display tech.

Needless to say, we don’t recommend people buy a phone with an under-display camera unless selfies aren’t important to you at all.

Under-display cameras may eventually look reasonable, but that’s about it.

“I understand people just want a very sleek, wonderful looking end-to-end display with nothing hindering it. But for people who really want to do good photography, I don’t think it’s the direction we should be going in,” Heape asserts, pointing to diffusion problems, color issues, and “weird” artifacts at night.

So will we get it [under-display cameras – ed] good enough to where a typical selfie will look reasonable? Yeah, but anything beyond that is going to be really, really hard.

Ditching the smartphone zoom camera?

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Telephoto cameras have been a fixture on smartphones dating back to 2024, with modern optical zooms capped at a long range but fixed 10x. Sony has also innovated in this area with the Xperia 1 IV, introducing a variable telephoto camera capable of shooting at a variety of native zoom factors. This means you don’t need two separate telephoto/periscope cameras. But Heape reckons it could also result in future phones ditching the dedicated telephoto camera altogether in favor of a main camera that doubles as a tele lens.

I think the coolest thing about that is that it has the potential to reduce the complexity of the camera system. Whereas right now you need three cameras, like a wide, ultrawide, and telephoto. If you can actually have a true optical zoom, maybe you can combine the wide and telephoto into one camera, and just have two cameras maybe and simplify the camera system, lower the power consumption, etc.

5 Reasons Law Firms Need Specialized Legal Content Marketing

The legal industry gets a lot of coverage in the marketing world, and for good reason.

It’s not only a highly competitive industry but also one where business owners struggle the most to create great content.

Lawyers must meet strict ethical and legal standards in their content marketing.

These include setting reasonable expectations in ad copy, avoiding unrealistic claims, remaining discretionary with user information, and much more.

And with that in mind, there are a few considerations lawyers should take when it comes to online content.

Why Law Firms Need Legal Web Content

According to the Legal Technology Resource Center’s ABA 2023 Legal Technology Survey Report, less than half of all law firms actually have a marketing budget.

This is quite surprising, as lawyers face a competitive landscape and almost require a marketing strategy to get and stay ahead.

But building a strategy and producing great content doesn’t always come naturally.

Working with a reputable legal content agency is one of the best ways to create thorough, optimized, and user-friendly content.

One of our clients, for example, started as a small solo-attorney law firm and, within two years, saw the firm’s revenue grow 5x.

He hired three lawyers to keep up and increased his marketing budget.

Here’s why law firms need content marketing, plus some tips on doing it right.

[Ebook:] A Guide To Content Marketing For Law Firms

1. Legal Content Marketing Improves SEO

Every website needs content.

From the content on your service pages to the articles on your blog, your legal web content tells prospective clients what your firm is about.

Not only that, but your content also tells search engines what your business is about.

Content is important for SEO because it provides context to search engines regarding what your law firm offers, its location, who it serves, and much more.

This is important when ranking high in search and reaching users actively searching for services like yours.

Search engine-optimized web content helps you target the keywords users search for to find legal services in their area.

So, besides effectively describing your firm’s values and experience, your content can actively attract more users to your site.

Building an SEO-friendly law firm website includes content, keyword research, local SEO, and web development and design.

2. Law Firm Web Content Can Attract Backlinks

While your SEO content works to drive organic traffic, it may also attract authority-boosting backlinks to your website.

These backlinks occur when other websites love your content and choose to link to you.

Backlinks offer strong signals to Google that your law firm is reputable and offers valuable content to users.

So, beyond focusing on SEO, write content your audience will love to read.

At the same time, backlinks can drive referral traffic to your website from the websites linking to you.

So, it’s valuable to create web and blogging content specific to your niche and attract links from other businesses and blogs in your industry.

3. Great Web Content Drives Social Shares And Traffic

The Content Marketing Institute is a strong proponent of creating content that serves multiple purposes.

Your blog content may drive organic traffic and social shares.

For example, adding “social proof” such as client reviews and testimonials to your content can encourage clients to share your content with their wider network.

Experimenting with other types of content like video and infographics may also have mass appeal.

Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Legal content doesn’t have to be stuffy; there are many interesting topics people are interested in reading if you can put a unique spin on it.

[Discover:] More Law Firm Content Marketing Best Practices

The basics of CRO include adding compelling calls-to-action (like “Subscribe here” or “Contact us”) on the pages and posts throughout your website.

This gives users multiple chances to take action rather than dropping immediately from your website.

Other factors influencing CRO are website speed, navigation, contact forms, and personalization.

There are many ways to personalize your content to increase on-site conversions.

5. Informative Content Increases Your Website’s Authority And Reach

Who and what you know often play a major role in your firm’s reputation in the legal industry.

Client reviews, referrals, networking, and guest speaking can all improve your law firm’s authority and reach.

Your content marketing can serve these purposes as well.

By publishing informative content on your website, you showcase your legal expertise and build trust with your audience.

And by guest posting and interviewing on other websites, you can earn backlinks, referral traffic, speaking opportunities, and more.

Clients want to work with lawyers who have a track record of success and are well-established in their industry.

Publishing great legal content is one way to nurture this trust and earn respect from other industry professionals.

[Download:] The Complete Guide To Content Marketing For Law Firms

Overhaul Your Law Firm’s Content Strategy

If you’re like most lawyers who don’t have a marketing budget, you know that creating content is one of the best and more affordable ways to market your firm.

It takes legal know-how, creativity, and the ability to write with your audience in mind.

Of course, a basic knowledge of SEO and content marketing principles can help generate better results from your content.

More resources: 

Featured Image: Flamingo Images/Shutterstock

Why Legal Experts Are Up In Arms Over The Trade

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers heard arguments over a bill that has garnered passionate support from Microsoft but been compared by others to the controversial SOPA copyright act.

Known as the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2024, the proposed legislation aims to strengthen companies’ ability to defend trade secrets with federal-level protections.

Specifically, it allows companies to pursue trade-secrets cases in federal court much as they can copyright or patent cases, thereby freeing them from the state-level constraints of today’s laws. More notably, it allows for so-called ex parte seizure, enabling a company that thinks a secret has been stolen to ask the government to seize a suspected thief’s property without notice, to prevent misuse of that secret.

Trade secrets can encompass many things, including a recipe such as the formula for Coca-Cola, or a company’s software algorithms.

“Trade secrets encompass an expanding portion of firms’ intellectual property portfolios, particularly in knowledge-centric areas of the economy such as technology and manufacturing,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The theft of U.S. trade secrets is increasing, he added, with estimates amounting to more than $300 billion in losses each year.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act was introduced this summer by lawmakers including Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, Senator Christopher Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, and Representative Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia, after an unsuccessful attempt to pass an earlier version last year.

At Wednesday’s hearing, those arguing in favor of the bill included lawyers from Corning and DuPont, who cited the increasingly digital and global nature of trade-secrets theft.

Their view was echoed in a blog post by Jule Sigall, Microsoft’s assistant general counsel of IP policy and strategy, who described the importance of trade secrets in the development of Cortana.

Opposition to the bill was voiced even before the hearing by more than 40 law professors in a joint letter that expressed concern about the ex parte seizure provision, as well as the bill’s potential to increase the duration and cost of trade-secrets litigation.

At the hearing, that view was expressed by intellectual property expert and Hamline University professor Sharon Sandeen, who argued that the bill would cause more problems than it solves and could particularly harm small businesses.

Companies have long protected algorithms such as consumer credit-scoring mechanisms under trade-secret law, Sandeen said in an interview after the hearing. If passed, the new bill could give them new powers to conceal those algorithms.

“Federal litigation tends to have more psychological power behind it,” she said. “That’s a benefit that will be used by the people who own the algorithms.”

There’s also no federal jurisprudence on the matter, she added, so “technically the federal courts can decide what everything means within trade-secret law.”

In other words, the federal courts could take an expansive view of what constitutes a trade secret and what it means to steal one, resulting in stronger protections for companies seeking to protect algorithms and other secrets.

That could come as a blow to those like Ashkan Soltani, the FTC’s chief technologist, who seek greater algorithmic transparency for social and ethical reasons.

Hamline University’s Sandeen suspects a hidden agenda behind the bill. Protections on trade secrets were traditionally kept relatively weak to encourage companies to pursue patents instead, she noted.

Patents are generally limited to 20 years, while “in theory, trade secrets can last forever,” she said. Particularly in industries such as manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, “they realize that trade secrets would be a better option.”

In addition, patents are filed publicly. A greater reliance on trade secrets would strike another blow to transparency.

“Patents offer a form of disclosure and rudimentary algorithmic transparency that can be used to inform the public of how those systems operate,” said Nick Diakopoulos, a professor in the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism. “Fewer patents means there will be less information about corporate algorithms available to the public.”

Hacking a company to steal a trade secret is already illegal under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, noted Christian Sandvig, a professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.

With its new seizure provisions, the Defend Trade Secrets Act could threaten free speech as well, he suggested.

“We know that in the past, corporations have used the courts to try to shut down Web servers that publicize technological research that makes them look bad,” Sandvig said. “This bill would give corporate censors a powerful new tool.”

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