Q3 2011 Quick Links, Part 5

By Eric Goldman

See the other quick links posts in this series:

* Q3 2011 Quick Links, Part 4

* Q3 2011 Quick Links, Part 3

* Q3 2011 Quick Links, Part 2 (Trademarks/Domain Names Edition)

* Q3 2011 Quick Links, Part 1 (Copyright Edition)

Trade Secrets

* Congressional proposal to add a private cause of action to the federal Economic Espionage Act. David Almeling supports the general idea. My take from an email list:

I don’t understand the incremental value of a federal private cause of action beyond the current state laws for the described situations. I also wonder if this is the beginning of the end for federal deference to state regulation of trade secrets. If the amendment get adopted, it would be entirely logical to see the restrictions relaxed over time to make it into a general-purpose private right of action for any trade secret misappropriation. For an analogous regulation, see the significant expansion of the CFAA over the past quarter-century, and especially the growing number of cases involving CFAA violations because former employees continued to access their former employees’ hardware (and, presumably, misappropriate trade secrets).

* Mattel’s lawsuit against MGA over the Bratz dolls has gone sour for Mattel in a big way. It was hit with another $225M in damages, bringing the amount it owes MGA to $310M. Oops.

* Probation for two individuals in the first lost iPhone prosecution, but no charges against Gizmodo. Yet, somehow, Apple apparently lost yet another “priceless” iPhone prototype at a bar.


* Bessen et al, The Private and Social Costs of Patent Trolls:

In the past, non-practicing entities (NPEs) — firms that license patents without producing goods — have facilitated technology markets and increased rents for small inventors. Is this also true for today’s NPEs? Or are they “patent trolls” who opportunistically litigate over software patents with unpredictable boundaries? Using stock market event studies around patent lawsuit filings, we find that NPE lawsuits are associated with half a trillion dollars of lost wealth to defendants from 1990 through 2010, mostly from technology companies. Moreover, very little of this loss represents a transfer to small inventors. Instead, it implies reduced innovation incentives.

* Joe Mullin is blogging again on patent matters, especially NPE issues! From his blog, check out his co-blogger’s post on Innovatio, which is sending licensing demands to hundreds of companies who are offering industry-standard wi-fi to consumers.


* After tossing its CA affiliates aside like rag dolls, Amazon and CA struck a deal on sales taxes that reinstated its CA affiliates (1, 2).

* Businesses using Groupons may be getting lower Yelp reviews.

* Dan Ariely deconstructs online retailers and websites to show how they are using psychological forces to get us to do what they want.

* Earll v. eBay, 5:11-cv-00262-JF (N.D. Cal. Sept. 7, 2011). eBay could be exposed to claims under the Disabled Persons Act and the Unruh Act.

* Foley v. JetBlue Airways (N.D. Cal. Aug. 3, 2011). Federal aviation law preempts California law regarding disability accessibility to airline website.

* Weinstein v. eBay. StubHub wins an anti-scalping case under New York law.

* NYT: Good example of how a properly managed consumer review website can improve marketplaces.


* David Stebbins is at it again. He sued Google to enforce his purported $500 billion arbitration win. The magistrate recommended dismissing the case as frivolous. Stebbins sued Microsoft too; see the long interview with him and a link to his video.

* Davis v. Avvo, 8:10-cv-02352-JDW-TBM (M.D. Fla. Sept. 13, 2011). Forum selection clause in Avvo’s user agreement upheld.

* Fusha v. Delta Airlines (D. Md. Aug. 30, 2011). Venue selection clause in check-the-box user agreement upheld.

* TradeComet.com LLC v. Google, Inc., 2011 WL 3100388 (2nd Cir. July 26, 2011): “a district court is not required to enforce a forum selection clause only by transferring a case pursuant to § 1404(a) when that clause specifies that suit may be brought in an alternative federal forum. Rather, in such circumstances, a defendant may seek to enforce a forum selection clause under Rule 12(b).”

A separate summary order upheld the applicability of Google’s forum selection clause against TradeComet. The court says Google’s clause doesn’t overreach because “Google unquestionably holds a ‘special interest’ in making sure that it is not subject to suit in numerous different fora for claims arising from its agreements with over a million advertisers.”

* Marso v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 09 CVS 2582 (N.C. App. Ct. Sept. 20, 2011). UPS required customers to go through a mandatory clickthrough agreement on computers in its store, but…

plaintiff asserts that defendant’s employee entered the information into the computer, and that “[n]o one advised [plaintiff], orally or in writing, about any UPS Tariff, waybill, or service guide,” or advised him that he could request a copy of the same….plaintiff suggests by his argument that he did not assent to the terms of service identified in the UPS Tariff, which would limit defendant’s liability for the fraudulent cashier’s check collected by defendant upon delivery of plaintiff’s package to Mr. Thompson, and instead asserts that he formed an oral contract with defendant’s employee which obligated defendant to be liable to plaintiff for $12,145.00 without limitation. Thus, there appears to be a genuine issue as to whether plaintiff assented to be bound by the limiting terms of the UPS Tariff, and whether defendant presented plaintiff with actual or constructive notice of the terms set forth by the UPS Tariff.

* Truong v. eBay, Inc., 2011 WL 3716999 (Cal. App. Ct. Aug. 24, 2011). This is a busted eBay Motors transaction where eBay warned the winning buyer not to complete the transaction and the seller sued for tortious interference with contract:

eBay raised the immunity provision of the federal Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230). As appellant pointed out to the trial court, and as that court ruled, the pertinent provision of that statute makes the law applicable to an action taken by an internet service provider to restrict access to or availability of material that is obscene, harassing, “or otherwise objectionable.” The conduct alleged against eBay was not editing or policing content of items posted on its marketplace, but interfering with a contract. (See 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2)(A).) eBay does not urge this ground in its respondent’s brief.

* Added to my RSS feed: The Tech Contracts Blog by David Tollen.


* ABA Journal on electronic service of notice.

* James Grimmelmann’s Internet Law casebook.

* On TWiL in late August, I discussed privacy and MP3Tunes with Denise Howell, Evan Brown and David Snead. The recording.

* Top 15 most popular “Damn You Auto Correct” postings of all time. Hilarious.

* Good news: I will receive the 2011 “IP Vanguard Award” (in the Academic/Public Policy category) from the California State Bar’s IP Section.