How the World Works?

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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5 Responses

  1. Rufus F. says:

    Jeez, I know it’s summer, but nobody has any thoughts on whether or not this part is accurate or important?-

    “The giant computer company Cisco and U.S. prosecutors deceived Canadian authorities and courts in a massive abuse of process to have a former executive thrown in jail, says a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

    The point, said Justice Ronald McKinnon in a stinging decision delivered orally on Tuesday, was to derail a lawsuit launched by the former employee, and involved a series of machinations that would make a normal person “blanch at the audacity of it all.”Report

  2. Trumwill says:

    I didn’t have much to contribute beyond “This looks bad.” I don’t see the shades of gray here I saw in the other story. Unless what they’re saying about Cisco and US Prosectors isn’t true, which I wouldn’t really know…Report

  3. Simon K says:

    Its unfortunately become fairly common for silicon valley companies to use lawsuits against individuals and criminal proceedings for copyright infringement and theft of trade secrets as tools of intimidation to force settlement or abandonment of larger (to them) civil proceedings between firms. Because these are criminal offenses and/or concern individuals rather than firms, they give people are massive incentive to abandon the civil corporate suit.

    A fairly typical case goes like this: Company M sues Company S, which is a larger more established player for patent infringement. Company S has internal records that show it has some claim to have invented the technology before Company M. Company S could try to show prior art in the patent lawsuit, but this is incredibly hard and the courts almost always reject it. Both companies have deep enough pockets that this could drag on more or less indefinitely. Instead, Company S finds a senior former employee, Dr G, who moved to Company M prior to the patent being filed and had something to do with the technology and sues him for breach of contract. If the evidence is strong enough, they’ll also call the state prosecutor and have Dr G prosecuted for theft of trade secrets, which is a criminal offense. Dr G will of course be scared shitless, probably never having had anything worse that a driving infraction on his record before, and try to get Company M to settle. In the case I have in mind, they did. In reality, what Dr G did is probably perfectly normal and protected by standard law (you can’t claim ownership of the contents of someone’s unaided memory, however hard you might try), but he just doesn’t want the inordinate personal expense and possible criminal record that could result. Since the purposes of these prosecutions is basically intimidation, they’ll throw whatever shit they may have on hand at the same time to see what sticks – given the nature of silicon valley, implying immigration violations isn’t uncommon.

    Sadly, the only real difference I see in this case is that they ended up involving the Canadian authorities who called bullshit before the prosecution reached a US court. Had the prosecution reached a US court, I’d expect they would similarly have called bullshit eventually. The thing I don’t understand here, and maybe one of our local lawyers could help, is why the prosecutors office pursues these things? I’m thinking that they don’t see it as their job to decide the merits of the case, but leave that to the courts. But what level of evidence is actually required to get them to act?Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Simon K says:

      Thanks, this is very helpful! That was roughly my understanding of the charges against the guy- they sound mostly like bullshit. But, okay, that’s the sort of things these companies do and we won’t worry because eventually the market will punish them- if not in this life, in the market-based afterlife. But why would the U.S. attorney go after him so aggressively, apparently pulling a bunch of dirty tricks to do so? And why have him arrested when they could have just let him into the US? I guess I basically have the same questions you do about the prosecutor’s office.Report

      • Simon K in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I’d be very interested in an answer to why these things are prosecuted. That to one side, it would be easy enough to stop this from happening. Reverse the criminalization of trade secret infringment – its a breach of a private contract and should be treated as such. Plus, make it illegal to include unenforceable clauses in private contracts. Its quite routine for silicon valley firms to include limitations on future employement and claims to ownership of the contents of your brain in contracts, none of which is enforceable under California law, but provides a pretext for dragging former employees through the legal process should they want to.

        Admittedly, we’re not the worst offenders – I once had the misfortune to be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement with a media company for reasons that never amounted to anything (fortunately). It claimed ownership of all written accounts, images, audio, video or any such media as might be invented, regardless of recording medium, of my entire life, throughout time and space. It was the “throughout time and space” that made me laugh. Up to that point it seemed perfectly reasonable.Report