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Intellectual property lawsuits risk exposing company secrets
How is your smartphone so smart? How does your Xbox do that? The answers to these questions are what technology giants, like Microsoft and Google, are trying to keep quiet.

How is your smartphone so smart? How does your Xbox do that? The answers to these questions are what technology giants, like Microsoft and Google, are trying to keep quiet.

Microsoft Corp and Google Inc's Motorola Mobility division have requested a Seattle federal judge to keep several details from their recent trial concerning the value of technology patents confidential from the public. The trial ran from November 13 to November 20 and concerned what rates Microsoft should pay Motorola for the use of its patented wireless technology.

The underlying lawsuit

The lawsuit initiated by Microsoft alleges that Motorola promised to license its patents to Microsoft at a fair rate, but then demanded an unreasonable $4 billion a year in revenue. The Seattle judge must determine what a reasonable royalty is for the use of the patents. To do this he will have to compare the Microsoft deal with similar deals Motorola had with other technology companies.

Both Microsoft and Motorola want to keep information revealed during this trial quiet. Motorola does not want the public to know the terms of its licensing deals with other third parties and Microsoft wants to keep its marketing plans for future products secret. During the trial, the judge cleared the courtroom when these trade secret details were discussed and evidence on these deals was revealed. Attorneys from both companies have recently requested that they file portions of their post-trial briefs under seal.

The case between Microsoft and Motorola is one of many cases in which technology companies are concerned about confidential information being released to the public. Similar lawsuits involving Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Nokia and others have also requested the sealing of documents to protect trade secrets.

To seal or not to seal

Some legal experts belief that sealing intellectual property cases infringes on the principal that the court process is supposed to be a public process. Tech companies, on the other hand, argue that being forced to settle because they don’t want their trade secrets revealed infringes on their right to have their day in court.

In order for someone to keep information from public view, they are required to show that disclosure would be harmful. Many judges are allowing the sealing of evidence in these intellectual property cases. Just because one aspect of the case should be kept confidential, however, does not mean the whole case is private. Many judges require the parties to redact the evidence that would be harmful if revealed and the rest of it remains public information.

If you are involved in civil business litigation that involves intellectual property or other trade secrets, consult a skilled business attorney to address your privacy concerns and protect your sensitive information.

Keywords: intellectual property
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