The use of social media sites, like LinkedIn, can be a helpful tool to reach a customer base. But a recent district court case out of Minnesota exemplifies the need to ensure that LinkedIn usage complies with the user’s employment agreement. Specifically, in late July 2017, a Minnesota court in Mobile Mini, Inc. v. Vevea granted a preliminary injunction preventing a LinkedIn user from soliciting customers through the website in violation of non-solicitation clause in the employment agreement of her prior employer. The opinion differentiates between posting mere status updates and posting solicitations, the latter of which can trigger violations of non-solicitation clauses.
Through the help of artificial intelligence (“AI”), your smartphone can act as a GPS that adjusts its recommended route in real-time based on emerging traffic patterns. By adapting to changes in traffic, the smartphone is able to redirect a driver to a faster route. Now imagine these adaptive capabilities in the legal field. With the potential of AI growing rapidly, the use of AI technology, though still in its infancy, is gaining traction with law firms, helping to provide better outcomes for clients, faster. According to a recent survey by management consulting firm Altman Weil, law firms are beginning to explore AI’s potential. While only 7.5% of surveyed law firms are currently making use of AI, nearly a third of the surveyed law firms have begun to explore opportunities to use AI as a legal tool. The capabilities of AI, whether currently available or on the horizon, suggest that both lawyers and clients can benefit from the legal field’s embrace of AI. This is particularly true with respect to the use of AI in the many phases of contract review: contract creation, contract analysis, and contract due diligence.
In May, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) released a Formal Opinion 477, providing guidance on attorney use of emails in communication with clients. In doing so, the ABA has promulgated a new standard when considering the level of protections necessary while using technology to converse about a legal representation. According to the ABA, a lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the Internet when the lawyer has undertaken “reasonable efforts” to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access to information relating to the representation. Under this reasonable-efforts standard, however, the ABA explicitly warns that a lawyer may be required to take special security precautions, like the use of encrypted emails, when the information warrants a higher degree of security.
This month, the Coalition of Technology Resources for Lawyers (“CTRL”) released the results of its survey regarding the use of analytics by corporate legal departments. Data analytics is the use of specialized data systems or software that uncovers patterns in data that can aid in a company’s decision-making and reduce costs. According to the survey, in-house counsel are increasingly using data analytics for a variety of tasks and nearly all surveyed agreed that data analytics will play a crucial role in the future in the services they provide to their companies. Ninety-nine percent of practitioners surveyed by CTRL agreed that data analytics “will be very important, will be considered indispensable, and use will be widespread.”
In early August, the D.C. Circuit refused to allow victims of terror attacks to take control of the Internet domain names of Iran, North Korea, and Syria as a means of satisfying previous money judgments awarded to the victims. In refusing this Internet domain seizure, the D.C. Circuit expressed concern about a “doomsday scenario” that could fundamentally disrupt the stability and accessibility of the Internet to the detriment of the general public. With this ruling, the D.C. Circuit acted with a degree of caution, mindful not to create waves amidst the global nature of Internet regulation.
A judge in the Northern District Court of California ruled that a virtual reality firm’s “right to veto” provision in its partnership agreement prevented the company from bringing suit against Oculus VR, LLC (“Oculus”), a company that created a popular line of 3-D virtual reality headsets. Total Recall Technologies (“TRT”), a general partnership also in the business of virtual reality headsets, sued Oculus and its founder, Palmer Luckey, claiming that Luckey and Oculus breached a contract to develop headsets for TRT. In his Order, Judge Alsup examined how a general partnership gets authority to bring suit and the subsequent result if that suit was brought without the requisite authority. Judge Alsup granted summary judgment subject to certain conditions in favor of Oculus, finding that TRT lacked the authority to bring suit due to the partnership agreement’s “right to veto” clause. This ruling highlights the critical nature of partnership agreements for technology-based startup companies (and, indeed, all partnerships), particularly in regard to “right to veto” clauses. While veto rights can enforce compromise and cooperation between partners, such a right may prove frustrating if the relationship between partners grows irreconcilably sour.
Earlier this month, a judge from the Northern District of California allowed a putative class action suit to proceed against Facebook. In this case, the plaintiffs alleged Facebook collected and stored biometric data of individuals’ facial features for use in “tagging” friends in digital photographs. In rejecting Facebook’s attempt to dismiss the suit, the court found that Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) applied in place of California law, and that BIPA does not categorically exclude from its scope all biometric information taken from digital photographs.
In late March 2016, a California federal judge asked both Google, Inc. and Oracle America, Inc. to voluntarily consent to a ban against Internet and social media research on empaneled or prospective jurors until the conclusion of the trial.
The case at issue is Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc., a long-standing copyright infringement suit in which Oracle claims Google’s Android platform infringed various Oracle copyrights. This “high-profile lawsuit” has been making its way through the courts since 2010. Before the voir dire commenced in the current proceedings before the Northern District of California, Judge William Alsup realized that the parties intended to “scrub” Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites to gain personal information about the potential jurors.