Thread vs Twitter: Trade Secret Controversy

Lately, the appearance of “Thread” has gotten so much public attention. This app launched on 6th July 2023 and gained 5 million users a few hours after launching.

Quoted from Wikipedia, Thread can be described as social media app and online services text base owned by Meta Platforms. This app is directly connected to the user’s Instagram account, so they must be downloaded both apps, Instagram and Thread. This app allows users to send text, pictures, and videos, repost, reply, and give likes to other posts.

When we hear the term “Thread”, we will associate it with Twitter because it has the same term as Twitter posts, also called “Thread”. This case will be interesting to be discussed from an IP viewpoint because it raises public questions about the copycat issue. So, can Meta duplicate the “Thread” name as their newly launched app? How does Intellectual Property Law regulate this case?

Legal Issue Controversy

After a long time of not posting something on his Twitter Account, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, posted a Spiderman meme.

Netizens assume it looks like sarcasm to mock Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter, because he posted it simultaneously with Thread launched. But Elon Musk replied to his post differently. Elon preferred to choose legal settlement through his Lawyer, Alex Spiro and sued Meta for scraping the Twitter data lawsuit.

Regarding this information, Twitter has sent a formal legal letter to Meta requesting that Meta take immediate steps to stop using Twitter trade secrets or other highly confidential information. The letter contains lawsuit and information, as you can see in the text below:

“Over the past year, Meta has hired dozens of former Twitter employees. Twitter knows that these employees previously worked at Twitter; that these employees had and continue to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information; that these employees owe ongoing obligations to Twitter; and that many of these employees have improperly retained Twitter documents and electronic devices.”

“Twitter reserves all rights, including, but not limited to, the right to seek both civil remedies and injunctive relief without further notice to prevent any further retention, disclosure, or use of its intellectual property by Meta.”

But Instagram CEO, Adam Mosseri, argue that Threads does not aim to replace Twitter. He said his goal is to create a public field for the community on Instagram who have never really used Twitter intensely. “And also for the community on Twitter (and other platforms) interested in a less loud place for conversation, but not all of Twitter,” he said.

Trade Secrets as One of the Regimes of Intellectual Property Rights

Trade Secret is one of the legal regimes of intellectual property rights which protects information that is not known by the public in the field of technology and business, has economic value because it is helpful in business activities, and is kept confidential by the owner of the Trade Secret.

It is essential to protect trade secrets because theft of trade secrets can provide enormous economic benefits for the rights holders. Therefore, efforts to steal trade secrets often occur. If the trade secret is leaked, there is a very high possibility for competitors to copy it. This will undoubtedly cause losses for the companies being imitated, leading to unfair business competition.

Comparison of Trade Secret Law in the United States and Indonesia

In the dispute between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, the case was attempted to be legally resolved through a court located in the US with the laws of that country. America is the only country that adheres to a first-to-use registration system for intellectual property. The United States is quite extensive in classifying trade secrets. In the US, trade secrets include information on a particular product, including the formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, which include:

  1. Has independent economic value, actual or potential, from which it is not generally known, and it isn’t easy to find a way for other people to be able to obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; And
  2. The related information is, under the circumstances, kept confidential.

In the United States, theft of trade secrets can also be categorized as a federal crime with the qualification of economic espionage as stipulated by the United States Economic Espionage Act, which was passed on October 11, 1996. The owner of trade secrets must maintain and maintain confidentiality and information in his possession.

This can be achieved through various steps, such as making an agreement containing the rights and obligations of the parties, especially obliging the other party not to divulge trade secrets in writing or orally. This kind of written agreement will be beneficial to avoid misunderstandings over the scope that must be kept confidential. The law agreed upon by the parties will protect that confidentiality based on the legal principles of the agreement.

Settlement of disputes in trade secrets starts with parties who violate the rules set out in trade secrets. In Indonesia, a trade secret right holder or licensee can sue anyone who knowingly and without the right does:

  1. Using the trade secret owned by the trade secret rights holder or licensee;
  2. We are granting licenses to or prohibiting other parties from using trade secrets or disclosing trade secrets to third parties for commercial purposes.

Indonesia, based on the Trade Secret Law, trade secret rights holders or licensees can sue anyone who intentionally and without properly commits an act (as referred to in Article 4, namely using their trade secrets and granting licenses to or prohibiting other parties from using trade secrets). or disclose the trade secret to a third party for commercial purposes) in the form of:

  1. Compensation claim; and/or
  2. Termination of all actions referred to in Article 4.
  3. The lawsuit was filed with the District Court.

In America, damages to the owner of a trade secret may include actual damages caused by unfair acts caused by misuse that are not taken into account in calculating actual damages or losses. Section 4 UTSA regulates in terms of:

  1. Claims of abuse are made in bad faith;
  2. Motions to terminate judgments made or contested in bad faith; or
  3. There is intentional and harmful misuse.

Indonesia’s Trade Secret Act is very different with United States. This can be seen from the legal subject, the scope of trade secrets and the form of dispute resolution. The legal subject matter and scope of trade secrets belonging to United States law is complex compared to Indonesian law.

The United States legal dispute settlement provides rules regarding the jurisdiction of the federal court due to a large number of states, in contrast to Indonesia which is a unitary state.

The legal elements in trade secret disputes belonging to United States law are broader than those of Indonesia. The complexity of the elements that must be met to file a lawsuit against trade secrets makes the lawsuit more challenging to file and prove.

Is this case a Trade Secret Infringement?

This case is still new and will continue to the following levels of dispute. The development of this case will disclose other legal facts, so we must be waiting for confirmation from the trusted party. It also needs to be proven whether or not Elon Musk’s accusations about the large number of Twitter employees working at the Meta company are true. The potential to say this dispute is a trade secret violation dispute still has to wait to discover other legal facts.

How to Avoid Similar Disputes?

We must understand the legal regulations regarding trade secrets to avoid this kind of dispute. When we understand the general rules of trade law protection, we will know the importance of trade secret legal protection for the works or products we produce. However, understanding the rule of law is not accessible if it is not accompanied by practising it.

Therefore, we at Am Badar & Am badar, a law firm established for five decades, have had much experience practicing law. We can help prevent your company from experiencing legal disputes that can cause losses. We can also help you take legal steps and become your legal representative in court if you experience legal problems in Intellectual Property Rights. If you need our quality service, contact us at ambadar@ambadar.co.id

 

 

 

 

References:

www.semafor.com

variety.com

www.waterfront.law

wartaekonomi.co.id

acholarhub.ui.ac.id

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