On the heels of the well-publicized litigation brought by Apple against bloggers who posted information about an upcoming product release on their sites (see reports here and here), another cautionary tale. Sony Eriscsson recently sent a cease and desist letter to the owners of the website Ubergizmo, based in Palo Alto, California, concerning pictures of the “Hermione” mobile phone that were posted on the site.

According to Sony Ericsson, the photos constitute trade secrets and are also protected by copyright. Ubergizmo claims that the photos were available elsewhere on the Internet, but apparently agreed to remove them from the site (with a ironic aside noting that others have commented that receipt of the cease and desist letter is “further proof that we hit a bullseye”).

Assuming Sony Ercisson’s claims of trade secret and copyright protection are supportable, there are several lessons here. For corporations, this incident is one more example of the “barn door” problem of trying to chase sensitive information across cyberspace once a leak occurs, suggesting that ever-more vigilant legal and technical measures have to be put in place to limit leaks in the first instance. Sony’s response, however, also demonstrates the potential precedential effect of legal action (or the threat thereof) even after the barn door has opened — while it may not address the current leak, it may have some limiting effect on future ones.

For bloggers and owners of enthusiast sites, this incident is another reminder that understanding the provenance of the information and other material you post online is of crucial importance before you release the information.

Posted by Lance Koonce