Pie in the sky

Michael Young:

It is not often a case hits upon two of our favorite topics: Trade secrets and pie. But when it does, mmmmmmmm, it’s good to be an attorney.

And for this reason, we are grateful to Justice Rushing who provided us with a little of both in his recent opinion in Silvaco Data Systems v. Intel Corp. (Calif 6th App. Dist., April 29, 2010), Case No. H032895.

A dainty dish

That’s what Professor Reynolds calls “bloggy goodness” right there.  I’m cutting way back on the sugar, but here, pour a cold glass of whole milk and take a slice of this:

After obtaining [an] injunction [against CSI, an alleged trade-secret thief], Silvaco sued Intel. Why? Because Intel had purchased and was using the software that CSI had created from Silvaco’s source code. The software did not actually contain the source code, but it was using executable, machine-readable code that had been derived (via the compiler) from the source code. Silvaco claimed that by using the software, Intel was “using” its trade secret source code, and hence was in violation of California’s Uniform Trade Secret Act (CUTSA).

Intel begged to differ and filed for summary judgment. Of the many arguments set out in the briefs, one was simply that Intel hadn’t “misappropriated” Silvaco’s trade secret source code. Under CUTSA, to “misappropriate” a trade secret, one must either “acquire,” “disclose,” or “use” the secret.

Silvaco argued that Intel “used” the source code when it ran the software since even though the software was executing the object code, the object code was based on the stolen source code. This is not a wholly frivolous argument.

[I]n granting Intel’s ][summary judgment] motion, the court decided to talk pies and pie recipes. When one bakes a pie from a recipe, he is clearly “using” the recipe, noted the court (to which most bakers would, I presume, agree). But what about the blogger who eats the pie? Is he “using” the recipe? Or just enjoying the fruits (or chocolate creams) of the end product? Mmmmmm.

The court held that the eater of the pie is simply a happy diner…even if he knows the baker stole the pie recipe in the first place. He is not a “user” of the recipe itself:

One who bakes a pie from a recipe certainly engages in the ‘use’ of the latter; but one who eats the pie does not, by virtue of that act alone, make ‘use’ of the recipe in any ordinary sense, and this is true even if the baker is accused of stealing the recipe from a competitor, and the diner knows of that accusation.

Michael pokes a little at the morsel — where, exactly, is the line that defines “use” of a trade secret? — before digging in.  Go on, dig in!  I don’t know about you but I haven’t eaten all day.

UPDATE:  Maybe instead you like cake?

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Author:Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

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2 Responses to “Pie in the sky”

  1. July 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    Wow. Pie analogies may be a great way to explain technology to a layman or an IP philosophy to friends and family, but I have a hard time finding a place for it in a legal decision. The court didn’t have to resort the Oxford Dictionary and pie stories to analyze use – plenty of law for that – but, perhaps it is a reflection of the briefs.

    • July 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

      Pie analogies may be a great way to explain technology to a layman or an IP philosophy to friends and family, but I have a hard time finding a place for it in a legal decision.

      Hey, come on!
      There’s always room for pie!!!

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