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New York Ruling Puts IP in the Spotlight

New York Ruling Puts IP in the Spotlight

As companies strive to protect their intellectual property from competitors, a ruling in New York last week attracted widespread attention and debate.  Richard Manley, commercial law specialist at Maxwell Hodge thinks the ruling puts IP back in the spotlight:

Sergey Aleynikov was a former programmer at Goldman Sachs. In 2009, he was arrested by federal investigators who accused him of copying code he had worked on at Goldman Sachs to help his new employers. That he violated the confidentiality agreement is not in question, but the key debate surrounds how theft of an intangiable item like source code is penalised, and whether that takes place in a civil or a criminal court.

Aleynikov was found sentenced to eight years in prison, although after serving just over a year of his sentence his conviction was overturned and he was acquitted, it emerged last week.

The decision is likely to have major ramifications on the way intellectual property theft is judged, following a clampdown in recent years. Whilst IP laws in the UK are obviously different from those in America, this case still highlights the complexities in this area.

More people are becoming IP-aware, but many are still unsure about the specific details of exactly what intellectual property can cover, or of the main methods of IP protection which they should be using such as patents, trade marks and copyright law, as well as other rights for specific occupations, such as database creators and plant breeders.

At Maxwell Hodge we have certainly seen an increase in clients asking us for consultation on their intellectual property recently; what it is, what their rights are and how they can go about protecting and licensing themselves.

More than ever before, it’s crucial that law firms are well versed on the issues, and advising business clients on their positions and how to protect their work.

On the other side of the coin, businesses in the creative industry need to make sure their policies are clear, so staff are aware as to who ultimately takes ownership of work produced.


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