Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a claim under Colorado law for civil theft of a copyrightable work required a trial court to instruct the jury on principles of federal copyright law. Petitioner Steward Software hired Respondent Richard Kopcho to develop and market a new software program. Steward never entered into a written agreement governing the ownership of the software with Holonyx, Inc. (one of Respondent's multiple corporate entities) or Respondent. By the time the software was ready for testing, the relationship between the parties had become strained. Steward refused to make further payments and under Respondent's direction, Holonyx locked Steward out of the software code and refused to turn it over. Holonyx then filed a copyright registration for the software with the U.S. Copyright Office, listing the software's author a new corporation Respondent controlled called Ruffdogs Software, Inc. Steward sued Respondent for breach of contract and civil theft. Before trial, the parties tendered proposed jury instructions; one of Steward's proposed instructions pertained to the ownership and registration of copyrightable works. The trial court determined that copyright law did not pertain to Steward's civil theft claim and rejected the tendered instruction. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed that ownership of the copyright in the code was irrelevant. The Court thus concluded the trial court correctly refused to instruct the jury on the principles of copyright law. The court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the trial court's opinion. View "Steward Software Co. v. Kopcho" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Timothy Gognat appealed an appellate court's decision that awarded summary judgment to Respondent Chet Ellsworth, Steven Smith and MSD Energy, Inc. In his suit, Mr. Gognat alleged that Respondents misappropriated certain trade secrets he disclosed to them. In the late 1990s, Mr. Gognat developed information relating to "probable" oil and natural gas reserves in the Western Kentucky Area. This information included technical, geographical, geological and business maps, charts, plans, interpretations, calculations, summaries, and other documents. Mr. Gognat shared this information with Mr. Ellsworth, and the two created a joint venture, MSD Energy, to eventually develop the reserves. Mr. Gognat maintained that Respondents misappropriated the trade secrets in the documents by acquiring leases in Western Kentucky without adequately compensating him pursuant to the joint venture. The district court found that the statute of limitations barred Mr. Gognat's claim, and the appellate court affirmed that decision. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr. Gognat argued that his claim against Respondents was premised solely on activities dating from 2005. Upon careful consideration of the arguments and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's decision. The Court found that the undisputed facts demonstrated that all of the proprietary information alleged to have been misappropriated constituted a single trade secret and this was known to Mr. Gognat more than three years prior to filing his complaint. Therefore, Mr. Gognat's claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. View "Gognat v. Ellsworth" on Justia Law