It could be argued that Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, had one of the greatest ideas of the 21st century. He took the concept of social networking online, and transformed it into a lifestyle – and grew his company to be one of the greatest tech giants of the Millennium. So, he knows a thing or two about keeping those bright ideas safe from intellectual property thieves.
Recruiting employees to steal competitors' ideas
That being said, Zuckerberg and his company, Facebook, are now involved in a $2 billion lawsuit claiming that the social networking powerhouse stole technology and talent associated with the Oculus Rift headset, a virtual reality headset that was developed within the last five years.
This lawsuit highlights the importance of protecting personal property, particularly in the early stages of its development. In a highly-competitive, technology-driven world, it's not surprising that these types of cases are working their way through the court system, but it showcases the need for entrepreneurs, developers, researchers and inventors to protect their assets as soon as they begin developing a new idea.
Why is protecting intellectual property so important?
An individual or team of individuals who generate an idea have a right to develop their idea and utilize it as they see fit, but intellectual property theft is occurring at increasing rates throughout the country. It's important to protect intellectual property and the free exchange of ideas, because this encourages innovation as well as new research and development. If inventors felt like every new idea that they had would easily be stolen by the competition, they would never put the time and effort into fully pursuing their fledgling ideas. Intellectual property laws protect inventors, artists, entrepreneurs and business people across all industries, giving them an opportunity to pursue their dreams and achieve success when they happen upon their next great idea.
What can others learn from this high profile case?
This case takes the traditional crime story of secrets, theft and concealment, and spices it up with a 21st century, technologically-savvy twist. According to an article published in the Washington Post, the idea for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset was first promoted in 2012 in a Kickstarter campaign, in hopes of using the latest crowdfunding technology to generate resources for product development. In 2014, Facebook purchased the company for $2 billion, and within two years, the headset was on sale to the public.
In the lawsuit, ZeniMax Media is alleging that executives working for Oculus stole ZeniMax code and talent in order to successfully launch the product when they went to work at Facebook. Furthermore, the gaming company alleges that Facebook covered up the situation in order to move forward with the development of the virtual reality headset.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook is denying these claims. However, the case highlights the need for entrepreneurs and developers of all stages and backgrounds to protect their intellectual property prior to moving forward with any business deals. This prevents an onslaught of legal issues in the future, which have a tendency to surface once an idea has become marketable.
What can you do in the event of industrial espionage or product theft?
If you feel that your intellectual property has been stolen, or you want to take the extra precautions necessary in order to protect your ideas and inventions, you will need to work closely with a commercial litigation attorney. An attorney who specializes in employment contracts, non-compete agreements and intellectual property laws can provide you with the counsel you need in order to understand the laws as well as protect your own assets. Your attorney should play an important part in the development of your idea or product moving forward.
Knowing the right commercial litigation attorney is critical, no matter what type of business or industry you are currently working in. Small business owners, young entrepreneurs, experienced professionals and corporate managers all have a right to protect their ideas, and an experienced legal team can help them do just that.
At Hopkins Law, we are here to advocate for you. For more information or to set up a consultation with one of our qualified commercial litigation attorneys, contact our commercial litigation office in Pawley's Island, South Carolina, today.