An interesting variation of this theme was discussed in an article that appeared in the 30 May issue of The Economist. Entitled “Exploring the Amazon”, the article enumerated various measures that Jeff Bezos, as the owner of the financially troubled Washington Post, has taken since acquiring the newspaper in 2013, the theme being that Bezos continues to apply solutions from his world of technology to the challenges of newspaper journalism. In that connection, the piece described the following:
"The Post has introduced a “partner” programme, in which it offers free access to its articles for subscribers of other papers such as the Dallas Morning News, if they sign in with their e-mail addresses. Logged-in readers like these are more valuable to a paper and its advertisers than anonymous ones, because the ads can be tailored to match whatever is known about their interests. So far more than 270 papers have signed on. This resembles how Amazon achieves dominance in its markets by gathering data on customers, the better to sell them stuff. Some newspaper bosses are cautious. “It’s a Trojan horse,” says one, who thinks publishers are unwise to share their subscriber lists with the Post and its advertisers.”What exactly is of trade secret concern here? The answer is: the aggregate email addresses of the subscribers. Anyone who wants to show the broad scope of what is protectable as a trade secret will likely mention a customer list. What could be further from patentable subject matter, yet still be of value to its owner as a trade secret, than a customer list? Email addresses of subscribers can be likened in this respect to the classic customer list. Thus misappropriation of the email addresses might be a concern.
But is that the case here? Unlike the fear of working with a rogue joint venture partner, who might misuse the trade secret in violation of the agreement between the parties, there is nothing in the paragraph quoted above that suggests that the Washington Post is breaching its arrangement with the other papers with respect to subscriber email addresses. Rather, the subscriber information seems to be provided to the Washington Post in exchange for making certain of its contents available for readers of the other newspapers. Presumably, instead of the paper paying to the Washington Post a royalty or other form of syndication fee, the Washington Post receives consideration in the form of email address information.
|Not forgetting the Trojan Cat ...|