Monday, April 10, 2006, 4/10/2006 08:32:00 AM

Court Refuses to Quash Subpoena of Personal Email Account in Trade Secrets Case

From ZDNet, a story concerning a subpoena to Yahoo for the personal email account of a former employee of biotech company, MicroBrightField, in a dispute over his academic website.

The employee, a software engineer, had as his specialty research into stereology, the science of three-dimensional interpretations of two-dimensional images. His employer paid for his master's degree in computer science at Virginia Tech. While at Virginia Tech, he created an academic website with a wealth of information on stereology. After the company demanded that his website be moved to the company, the employee quit and went to work for a competitor.

After he left, the company brought claims against him alleging copyright infringement, breach of contract, trade secret theft, and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (for allegedly accessing the company's source code repository). It also sent a subpoena to Yahoo for the contents of defendant's e-mail account.
Last week, the court refused to quash the subpoena to Yahoo notwithstanding defendant's claims that it was a family account and was also used for attorney-client communications.

The lesson: few courts are going to draw a distinction between a personal email account and a business account.


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