Shortly after the launch of Threads, Twitter accused Meta of having stolen company secrets to create its new social network and threatened Mark Zuckerberg’s company with a lawsuit.
This may be the first move in a legal clash between big techs, but experts say that Elon Musk‘s company will have to overcome a major obstacle if it takes the case to court.
What is Twitter’s charge?
- According to Twitter, Meta used its trade secrets when developing Threads;
- The bird’s social network requires the owner of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to stop using the information;
- Twitter still accuses Meta of hiring dozens of former Twitter employees, most of whom would have “improperly retained” documents and devices, and that they would have been “deliberately” reassigned to work on the development of Threads.
However, it is not yet known if there will be a lawsuit. A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to Reuters ‘ request for a response. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone stated on Threads that no one engineering Threads was from Twitter.
Legal experts say cases in which companies have accused competitors who hired former employees of theirs and who own similar products of stealing trade secrets are difficult to prove.
Because it is hard?
To win the dispute, the plaintiff must show that its competitor took economically valuable information and that the company used “reasonable efforts” to maintain secrecy, said Polk Wagner, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania. But the question of what constitutes “reasonable effort” can be tricky, he says.
The courts are pretty clear that you can’t just wave your hands and say something is a trade secret. On the other hand, you don’t need to block everything so much that nobody can use the information.
Polk Wagner, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania
Since Elon Musk bought Twitter and made a number of changes that users and advertisers disliked, several networks similar to it have emerged. In addition to Threads, we saw Bluesky, Koo, and Mastodon emerge strongly.
In cases like this, an element used by the Justice to analyze unfair competition is whether the company made it clear to its employees that the specific information in question was a trade secret.
Sharon Sandeen is a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and claimed that companies lost trade secret cases when they claimed employees were bound by broad agreements that designated all company information as confidential.
Courts often say that employees have no way of knowing, using broad language, what is confidential and what is not, the professor said. Companies often end up bringing trade secret cases only to find that their claims are not as strong as they thought.
Sandeen pointed to the legal battle between Alphabet’s Waymo autonomous vehicle unit and Uber. The case began with allegations of thousands of stolen documents and ended with a dispute over a small handful, he said.