Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Google is Learning the Hard Way About the Need to Build an IP Portfolio

Silicon Valley exploded with the concomitant explosion of the value of intellectual property.  In fact, Silicon Valley companies often use their patent portfolios to use against rivals.  Sometimes this manifests itself in a cross-license of patents, or the wrangling of a license fee, or some other type of concession from a company's rivals.  Because these companies realized the value of intellectual property, oftentimes a business strategy is to "collect" intellectual property (by buying them along with a company, or obtaining them from a company that files for bankruptcy). 

Amazingly, Google did not stockpile intellectual property--even in the smartphone arena.  That strategy (or lack thereof) has now lead to Google being the subject of many lawsuits by Apple and others all over the world.  As consumers are shifting from desktops to mobile devices, this may cost Google dearly. 

Apparently, Google has learned its lesson because it is now trying to build its intellectual property (especially patent) portfolio.  The problem is that with so much litigation against it by some very big companies, Google's failure to capture the right intellectual property could cause its Android phones to become pricey.  Litigation is costly. 

Hopefully, if you are a fledgling technology company, you are keeping an eye out for intellectual property that can help you build your business and trying to obtain it or get rights to it before being sued.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Potential Employers are Asking for Social Media Passwords

It is becoming more and more common for potential employers to ask job applicants for their social media passwords (especially Facebook passwords) as part of the vetting process.  Employers want to get a little more insight into the applicant before offering them a position.  Public agencies use the information to make sure that there are no gang connections or photos of illegal activity (especially for law enforcement applicants).  Can they do that?

Yes, they can.  Interview questions that are discriminatory in nature are prohibited.  Asking for a Facebook password is not discriminatory in nature.  Does that mean that the candidate must supply the password?  No.  Of course, not supplying the password may be a deal breaker and you risk not getting the job. Given that even "deleted" Facebook photos remain on Facebook's servers for three years, the employer may be able to access those photos.  Granted, to access them, the employer would need the direct link address.  Several Facebook users see this as a violation of their privacy rights, but is it private when the user posted the photo themselves in the first place?  There has been many recent articles regarding the privacy policy of several social media sites.  So, a Facebook user should not expect much to be private when they post it.

However, that does not necessarily mean that a prospective employee should feel compelled to provide their password.  This is another warning to be careful what you post on social media sites.