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Archive for the category: Construction Liability
  • Google Accused of Trade Secret Infringement

    In the past, lawyers for multiple small companies have accused search engine giant, Google Inc., of stealing and profiting from their clients’ trade secrets. In the case of VSL Communications, lawyers claim that Google did the same thing and left a paper trail of Post-it notes as evidence.   London-based VSL Communications is accusing Google of stealing its proprietary method for shrinking video and audio files without any sacrifice in sound or image quality. The suit, filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court this past month, claims that Google used those trade secrets to enhance all of its streaming and downloading technology including YouTube, Google Play and Google Earth.   The complaint alleges that Google coerced VSL into handing over trade secret information. A Google executive contacted VSL’s CEO to discuss the possibility of buying VSL’s video streaming and downloading technology. Google signed a nondisclosure agreement and VSL then provided the Google team with three CDs that contained working versions of its technology, 400 files and photocopies of additional VSL trade secrets as well as charts comparing the VSL technology with that of its competitors’. The complaint states that VSL did not know that”… behind the scenes, Google had devised a scheme to steal the VSL trade secrets and incorporate them into Google’s own products without compensating VSL for their use.”   After discussions between the two companies came to a standstill over eight months later, VSL decided the deal was not going to go through and asked Google to return its intellectual property. Google returned the disks but the files and material were now covered with Post-it notes that contained information including the following:   Google employees should delete any incriminating emails Google was concerned over the possibility of infringement regarding products in development Engineers at Google should “close eyes to existing IP” Google needed to speak with outside counsel about a non-infringement opinion Google should consider infringement lawsuit risk Concern over recklessness label on its infringement   The complaint alleges that Google began to amend its preexisting patent applications and file new applications using VSL’s technology. In early 2012, VSL noticed that Google’s software showed significant improvement after VSL had provided access to its files and, upon examination, VSL staff found that VSL technology had been used in the company’s publicly available code. The complaint states that “Defendants’ theft of VSL’s trade secrets pervades virtually every website and[READ MORE…]

  • General Motors Has Set A New Precedence For Auto Recalls This Year

    General Motors (GM) has set a new precedence for auto recalls this year, as the first cavalcade of auto recalls quickly turned the safety notices into background noise ignored by many of the effected car owners. GM started the avalanche on February 2014, when they announced that they had to fix a fatally flawed ignition switch on some of their small cars. That was quickly expanded twice and now numbers 2.6 million cars worldwide. The defect is linked to 13 deaths and 54 accidents. Hoping to clean house and avoid more government fines for recall foot-dragging, GM has announced 38 recalls this year through June, covering 14.4 million U.S. vehicles. GM alone will far exceed the past decade’s annual auto industry average of 21 million cars and light trucks. GM’s stepped-up recall pace could continue into midsummer, said GM Executive Vice President Mark Reuss. In the past month, GM had announced four more recalls, with the largest for 464,712 Chevrolet Camaros. The Camaro ignition key can be bumped out of position, a problem linked to three crashes and four minor injuries. Meanwhile, other automakers are clearing their cupboards of safety-related issues to stay out of the sights of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is promising tougher oversight to prevent a repeat of GM’s 13-year dawdling before the switch was recalled. So far this year, other auto manufacturers have announced 47 recalls, covering 8.54 million U.S. vehicles, according to government records. That’s a lot, even though it seems otherwise when contrasted with GM’s overwhelming numbers. The millions of recalls that have been issued this year made the situation worse and owner response rates even lower. The typical consumer reaction seems to be, “My car’s running fine. Do I need to bother?” The fact is, car owners should be bothered, but getting them to grasp that fact is a bit like trying to push a piece of string. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that about 75% of recalled vehicles eventually get fixed, depending upon the value and age of the vehicle, how serious the problem seems and how likely the owner thinks that the issue might effect their vehicle. The agency believes toning down recall commotion would hurt, not help; safety is their number one concern and they want to increase and improve ways to reach consumers, not limit the number of recalls. It’s easy to see[READ MORE…]

  • Minnesota Bridge Collapse

    The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last November 2011 that the State of Minnesota could proceed with its claim against Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., the California firm that designed the Minnesota bridge that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 and injuring 145 others.  The State’s claim against Jacobs Engineering Group (Jacobs) is based on the fact that the bridge was designed by a firm that Jacobs acquired in 1999.  The bridge collapse was found to have been caused by a design error that led to inadequate load capacity. More than 100 lawsuits were filed in 2009 and, pursuant to the Minnesota Tort Claims Act, the State of Minnesota has paid more than $37 million to victims of the bridge collapse.  The State has also sued URS Corporation, the firm hired to inspect the bridge in 2003, and Progressive Contractors Inc., the company who had performed repairs on the bridge.  Both of these companies have also filed claims against Jacobs, the design firm, seeking contribution, indemnity and reimbursement for their liability under a Minnesota law that allows injured victims to make a statutory claim for reimbursement in the event of an accident.  The court dismissed these claims, however, due to a ten-year Statute of Repose, which provides that a company is immune from liability ten years after construction of the bridge.  Since the bridge was built in 1967, liability of Jacobs with respect to the claims of URS Corporation and Progressive Contractors expired in 1977. Despite the fact that the indemnity claims of URS and Progressive Contractors against Jacobs were dismissed, the State of Minnesota’s claims against Jacobs were not dismissed.  The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the State’s claims for reimbursement could continue due to a Minnesota statute that retroactively revived the State’s claims despite the expiration of the State of Repose deadline.  Specifically, Minnesota statute 3.7394 allows the state to recover from any responsible third parties any payments made from the emergency relief fund despite any statute to the contrary.  Accordingly, the State is permitted to seek reimbursement for the payments made to victims of the bridge collapse despite the time limitations in the Statute of Repose. Impact of Court’s Decision The Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the case to proceed against Jacobs Engineering could have far reaching effects.  Despite a Homeland Security Report issued in April of 2011 revealing that nearly 12 percent of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient and[READ MORE…]

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