Thursday, November 17, 2011, 11/17/2011 10:57:00 AM

Who Owns the Information Related to the Twitter Account - Employer or Employee or Neither?

By Todd

We're linking you to a great piece in Ars Technica by Venkat Balasubramani - an attorney who specializes in media, technology and internet issues. The piece examines a recent case in which the former employer, PhoneDog, sued a former employee, Noah Kravitz, for misappropriation of trade secrets, interference with economic advantage, and conversion of information related to a Twitter account Kravitz operated for the company Kravitz decided, alas, to change the password on is way out the door and PhoneDog was effectively shut out of the account. They, of course, sued.

We're interested in the trade secret claim, and Mr. Balasubramani is too. He notes that the court refused to dismiss the trade secret claim, stating "PhoneDog has sufficiently described the subject matter of the trade secret with sufficient particularity and has alleged that, despite its demand that Mr. Kravitz relinquish use of the password and Account, he has refused to do so. At this stage, these allegations are sufficient to state a claim. Further, to the extent that Mr. Kravitz has challenged whether the password and Account followers are trade secrets and whether Mr. Kravitz's conduct constitutes misappropriation requires consideration of evidence beyond the scope of the pleading."

Makes sense, right? The court is forestalling the question of whether the Twitter data and information is a trade secret or not - they want to hear more about that claim and the information will come from documents and testimony OUTSIDE of the complaint or answer. The piece goes on to examine the jurisdictional "amount in controversy" issue and we found that issue interesting, too. On the issue of whether the password for the Twitter account is a trade secret, that seems to us to be beside the point. The password is just the key to entry to the real trade secrets, if there even are any there. The independent commercial value is in the operation and cultivation of the followers - and this will be an interesting issue to watch as the court attempts to peel this onion.


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