Decompiling the rules on trade secrets, software and reverse engineering


My last post concerned trade secret litigation (read it here), and since I am (at least momentarily) quite fascinated by the subject of trade secrets, I decided to do a follow-up post on another topical issue in this field. In trade secret law, two types of behavior are generally considered to be allowed: i. independent discovery and ii. reverse engineering. Especially the latter sparked discussion in the EU with the arrival of the new Trade Secrets Directive (2016/943) (“TSD”). Reverse engineering is allowed based on Art. 3 (1) (b) and recital 16 of the TSD. Recital 16 of the TSD stipulates that

“[…] Reverse engineering of a lawfully acquired product should be considered as a lawful means of acquiring information, except when otherwise contractually agreed. The freedom to enter into such contractual arrangements can, however, be limited by law.”

Let’s pause here for a moment and decompile this provision:

  • Main rule: If you lawfully acquire a product, you may reverse engineer it.
    • Exception: Reverse engineering is not allowed if it has been contractually agreed that such behavior is not permitted.
      • Exception to exception: However, the freedom to enter into such an agreement restricting the permissibility of reverse engineering may be restricted by law. This, in a sense, takes you back to the main rule in the first bullet point.

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Sad to CJEU Go? What Brexit Could Mean for Intellectual Property (part 2 of 2)

Guest post by William Wortley*

In this article we conclude our look at the potential implications of Brexit on the European intellectual property law framework. (Part 1 can be seen here).


Although copyright is less harmonised than other areas of IP, it does not escape the potential ramifications of a “hard” Brexit. The Commission has signalled its intention to push forward with the Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy, reshaping copyright to make it fit for the digital age. Certain legislation, such as the proposed Content Portability Regulation, are expected to come into force prior to the UK’s exit from the EU, although this will not stop it potentially losing effect post-Brexit if a settlement is not achieved. The regulation allows EU consumers to access digital content provided in their Member State of residence if temporarily in another Member State. If the content localisation provisions no longer applies after Brexit, content providers in the UK will be severely hampered by having to negotiate licences in the remaining Member States. The issue is of commercial importance to UK businesses, Continue reading “Sad to CJEU Go? What Brexit Could Mean for Intellectual Property (part 2 of 2)”

Sad to CJEU Go? What Brexit Could Mean for Intellectual Property (part 1 of 2)

Guest post by William Wortley*

It is over six months since the United Kingdom (UK) decided to leave the European Union (EU). The uncertainty surrounding the timing and form of the exit remains undimmed and much remains unknown about how IP rights will be affected. This week’s statement on Brexit by Theresa May make it an excellent time to revisit what the referendum result could mean for IP rights.

Patent Rights

Immediately after the Brexit vote, questions were raised about the implications for the Unified Patent Court (UPC). To the surprise of some commentators, the UK announced its intention to ratify the UPC agreement on 28 November 2016, stating that the UK would continue to work with the preparatory committee to bring the UPC into force as soon as possible. Continue reading “Sad to CJEU Go? What Brexit Could Mean for Intellectual Property (part 1 of 2)”

The Crispr Cas9 battle reaches oral arguments before the United States Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the stakes are favoring the Broad Institute


Guest post by Lucia Tamayo Del Portillo*

In early 2012, a group of scientists from the University of California Berkeley (“UC”) led by Dr. Jennifer Doudna, in collaboration with the University of Vienna and fellow researcher Emmanuel Charpentier, filed the first patent application for a revolutionary gene-editing tool called Crispr Cas9. The Crispr and its associated protein Cas9 is a natural existing response to immunological hazard that can be found in bacteria. By a combination of complex biochemical interactions, bacteria is able to identify foreign DNA, cleave to it, and then induce a break on the DNA strand, causing its instant deactivation. UC’s first patent application was broad and mainly tested in rather simple living organisms such as bacteria. Few months after this application, the Broad Institute (“Broad”) along with the MIT and the Harvard College, filed another patent application over the Crispr Cas9. Dr. Feng Zhang commanded the main research team behind this invention. This subsequent application was limited to the use of the Crispr Cas9 method in eukaryotic organisms for example, plants and animals. Continue reading “The Crispr Cas9 battle reaches oral arguments before the United States Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the stakes are favoring the Broad Institute”

China’s Patent Boom

This post was originally published on The IPKat on 10 January 2017.

World Intellectual Property Organization recently published its annual World Intellectual Property Indicators report. This report states that, amid rising worldwide demand for intellectual property rights, a new record was set. Namely, with around 1.1 million new patent applications in 2015, the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) became the first patent office to receive more than a million applications in a single year. This was almost as many applications as the next three offices in the ranking combined (the patent offices of the U.S., Japan and South Korea). Some people are astonished and also confused about China’s patent boom in recent years: What drives such a strong growth in patent applications? How good is the quality of the massive applications? What impacts does the boom have on patent protection in China? This article briefly discusses some aspects of these questions. Continue reading “China’s Patent Boom”

The death of book scanning services in Japan


The IP High Court in Japan has considered book scanning services to amount to copyright infringement. The judgment became final in March this year because the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by the service provider. On 30th November, the police in Kyoto arrested a book scanning service provider, who scanned popular Japanese manga comics in response to its clients’ request. This is the first criminal case and could largely affect similar businesses in Japan. In this posting, I would like to briefly explain the reasoning of the IP High Court.

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