Twitter’s Accusation Against Meta
Twitter has accused Meta Platforms of pilfering its trade secrets for the creation of a new microblogging platform called Threads. Twitter alleges that Meta has hired numerous former Twitter employees who allegedly retained company devices and documents, and were intentionally assigned to work on Threads. In a recent letter, Twitter demanded Meta to cease the use of its confidential information. Despite the brewing dispute, it remains uncertain whether legal action will be pursued.
While Meta's spokesperson Andy Stone denied employing any former Twitter engineers on the Threads project, Twitter did not immediately respond to the issue. As the volley of accusations increases, industry pundits opine that proving the allegations of trade secrets theft can be a tall order.
Trade Secret Theft: Difficult to Prove
According to Polk Wagner, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a company must establish that the stolen information was not only economically valuable but was also reasonably guarded to succeed in a trade secrets case. However, defining 'reasonable efforts' can prove challenging. “The courts are quite clear that you can't just label something a trade secret. On the contrary, you are not required to seal every bit of information so tightly that it becomes inaccessible," explains Wagner.
Designation of 'Trade Secrets'
Meta's Threads, which has a striking resemblance to Twitter, was launched recently amidst an atmosphere of discontent surrounding Twitter. Ever since Elon Musk acquired the microblogging site last year, several users and advertisers have turned their backs on Twitter. According to Sharon Sandeen, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, the key factor in winning a trade secrets case is whether the company has specifically identified the information under dispute as a trade secret.
The Outcome of Trade Secret Cases
Companies often lose trade-secret cases due to broad agreements that classify all company information as confidential. Such ambiguous language leaves employees in the dark about the confidential nature of specific information. Experts also warn that many organizations embark on trade-secret litigations only to discover their claims are not as potent as previously believed. Sandeen cites the high-profile legal battle between Alphabet's Waymo and Uber as a case in point. The issue started with claims of thousands of stolen documents but dwindled to a few crucial ones. The case was settled before trial for $245 million in Uber shares. According to Wagner, settlements are a common occurrence in trade-secret cases, as airing the disputed secrets isn't in anyone's best interest.