In the case of Amazon.com v. Barnesandnoble.com, the former sued Barnesandnoble.com, the plaintiff, and owner of a patent called the ‘411 patent. The patent involved a method that allowed the consumers to complete the ordering of an item online by a single click. Samson (2001) ascertains that this could be possible because Amazon could have access to information concerning the clientele incorporating billing and shipping data from the company’s database. Amazon had developed the patent to address the shortcomings of the traditional shopping-cart method that involved a series of steps to complete a purchase.
Facts of the Case
Barely a month after the ‘411patent had been issued, Amazon sued Barnesandnoble.com (BN) for purported infringement of the patent. Amazon claimed that BN had installed a feature on its website called ‘Express lane’ that allowed shoppers to order items through the single action. Claiming that the Express lane infringed the ‘411 patent, Amazon sought a preliminary injunction barring BN from continued use of Express Lane on its website.
A United States District Court in Western District of Washington granted Amazon a preliminary injunction and held that the firm was likely to prove infringement of ‘411 patent during the trial. The court also concluded that BN failed to raise a considerable challenge to the validity of ‘411 patent (Samson, 2001). The Federal court, on the other hand, interpreted that Amazon’s patent is applicable in situations where the shopper is presented with both the product description and the single action for completing a purchase. From this determination, the Federal court established that there was the likelihood that Amazon would prove that BN’s Express Lane feature infringed ‘411 patent. For their part, BN claimed that shoppers were obliged to place the product they wanted to buy on the website which could only become possible after visiting different sections of the online platform. Also, it reported that the Express Lane feature would only permit the clients to purchase a product after looking through its description and choosing from some proposals a particular one. Consequently, BN concluded that its feature required over one action by shoppers, and thus did not infringe ‘411 patent (Mota, 2001).
The Federal court denied BN’s claim and reiterated that counting of clicks starts after the clients are introduced with the product’s description and notification that single click is obligatory to finish the purchase. Samson (2001), since under BN’s system only a single action was required when consumers had been presented with the information, it was held that the system infringed the ‘411 patent. The court argued that BN raised serious concerns with respect to the validity of ‘411 patent taking into consideration prior art accessible, which gave reasonable grounds for the denial of Amazon’s preliminary injunction. The prior art that BN relied upon in challenging the validity of ‘411 patent includes the CompuServe trend system, Dr.Lockwood’s web basket ordering system, a passage from Magdalena’s book, and another from a printout of a webpage. Eventually, the Federal court argued that considerable questions were raised as to the validity Amazon’s patent. Based on this, the Federal court declined Amazon’s application for injunctive relief.
From the facts of this case, new technologies seem not to be compatible with the existing intellectual property laws. Arguably, the type of technologies discussed in this case is inappropriate for protection through patent laws. On the contrary, they deserve a special type of treatment partially because the prior art continues to improve. It was evident from the case that before issuing its judgment, the Federal court did not seek to differentiate the subject matter in this kind of case, but moved on and addressed prior art available. 1 Corinthians 4:5 emphasizes on judgement and approval. Accordingly, in a Christian perspective, although Amazon had shouldered its burden of indicating a possibility of success infringement, the art references quoted by BN raise significant inquiries on the validity of the 411 patent and precluding documentation of preliminary injunction. Hence, the decision only undermines the prerequisite for documentation of preliminary injunction, thus, cannot resolve the ultimate inquiry of invalidity.
Case study 2: IBM Corp. v. Mark D. Papermaster
The case of IBM Corp. V. Mark D. Papermaster arose after Mark resigned in October 2008 after working for IBM for 26 years. While at IBM, he held various roles including design and development. Clark and Altieri (2009) note that he was among IBM’s power architecture, which designed, developed, and manufactures microprocessors for small and large electronic devices. In 2006, he received a promotion to become a member of IBM Integration and Values Team, which comprised of over 300 top managers who developed the company’s strategy.
Facts of the Case
In line with the promotion, Mark was required to sign a noncompetition agreement which barred him from directly or indirectly engaging or associating with competitors of IBM for one year after termination. Nevertheless, Apple Inc. acquired a microchip design company in April 2008, based in California, for designing chips for iPods and iPhones. On 15th October 2008, Apple Inc. offered Mark, the position of the vice president. Consequently, he signed the employment agreement with his new employer as well as Apple Inc.’s intellectual property agreement, which required him not to disclose or use proprietary, secretive or any confidential information of his past employers. Mark ceased being an employee of IBM on 24th October 2008 and started working for Apple Inc. on 3rd November 2008, thus defying the non-competition order he had previously signed with his former employer. In line with the non-competition agreement, IBM moved to the district court seeking for a preliminary injunction.
Under the doctrine of inevitable disclosure, some employees, particularly those holding top management positions, cannot wipe out the knowledge from their former employees. According to Singh (2016), despite their effort to avoid revealing trade secrets to their new employers, they would certainly disclose some secrets during their employment. Consequently, even without a noncompeting agreement, such employees should be barred from working for a new employer for some time.
As Clark and Altieri (2009) aver, the district court directed Mark to stop working for Apple Inc. until the court issued the further order. IBM argued that since Mark had access to IBM’s strategic and technical secrets, he would cause irreparable harm to the company. IBM also claimed that he would draw the expertise and experience gained from IBM to fit iPods and iPhones with the best microprocessors at an affordable cost. On its part, the Federal court ruled that it had no evidence that Mark had disclosed any trade secrets related to IBM. It further concluded that though IBM faced irreparable harm, it was not necessary to doubt that Mark would adhere to Apple Inc.’s intellectual property agreement. It concluded that there was no cause for alarm unless he disclosed or misused IBM’s trade secrets.
Many jurisdictions are reluctant to accept the doctrine of inevitable disclosure because it is against the public policy. Federal courts have indicated through previous rulings that the doctrine of the inevitable disclosure will only apply where there is substantial evidence of misappropriation on the part of the employee. Ideally, this seems like a very narrow threshold for applying the doctrine of inevitable disclosure. Moreover, without any evidence of misappropriation, the doctrine is rendered useless. Nevertheless, a Christian perspective of the case would bar any jurisdiction from infringing on the very fundamental human rights of freedom to employment and that of talent utilization according to ones will in fulfilling their divine purpose. Additionally, Ephesians 2:10 emphasizes that individuals who are skilled in any kind of work should use their skills in doing good and fulfilling their divine purpose, a purpose of serving, hence, delimiting an individual from working in a new organization for a period not less than one year would impact the individual well-being, and the well-being of their significant others, as well as that of their dependent.
Clark, J.,& Altieri, L. (January 2, 2009). Papermaster’ could further expand the use of inevitable disclosure doctrine as appeared in The New York Law Journal. Retrieved from https://www.ebglaw.com/news/papermaster-could-further-expand-use-of-inevitable-disclosure-doctrine-as-appeared-in-the-new-york-law-journal/
Mota, S. A. (January 01, 2001). Internet Business Method Patents-The Federal Circuit Vacates The Preliminary Injunction In Amazon.Com V. Barnesandnoble.Com. John Marshall Journal of Computer and Information Law, 19, 523-534. Retrieved from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-federal-circuit/1453970.html
Samson, M. (February 14, 2001). Amazon.com, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.internetlibrary.com/cases/lib_case200.cfm.
Singh, A. (2016). Corporate Espionage and Trade Secret Theft in Modern Times. Saarbrucken Scholars’ Press.
Stephen, D., Kyle, G., Michael, H., Ian, J., & Michael, K. (n.d.). Who’s Afraid of amazon.com v. barnesandnoble.com?. Duke Law & Technology Review, 1, 1.). Retrieved from https://dltr.law.duke.edu