Ep 55: Tesla Patents for All & Company Cell Phones and Private Data

June 16, 2014

The guys discuss Tesla’s decision to go open source with its patents and answer the question, “Our sales people get company cell phones that are for work use only. One of our recently fired employees wants the pictures on their phone. Do I have to give it to them?”

Full Podcast Transcript

NASIR: Welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business!
This is Nasir Pasha.

MATT: This is Matt.

NASIR: Welcome to… Oh, I forgot, Matt Staub is here.

MATT: Yeah, Matt Staub is also here. It’s apparently a one-person show this week.

NASIR: So, welcome to Episode 55 where we cover business in the news and also put in our legal twist and also answer some of your business legal questions that you, the listener, sends to ask@legallysoundsmartbusiness.com.

MATT: Apparently, we allow the co-host to talk at times, but not always.

NASIR: Well, I just wanted to try it out to see if it was just Legally Sound Smart Business with Nasir Pasha and then that’s it. I just wanted to see. It has nothing to do with you. I just, you know, I was experimenting.

MATT: All right, fair enough, fair enough.
Well, tying in some more equality issues, I guess, this is pretty big news that out’s there.
Elon Musk – I think that’s how you pronounce his name – the guy who’s involved with PayPal before and now of Tesla amongst other companies, he’s come out and said, “You know what? We’ve got hundreds of patents of Tesla but we’re just going to not go after anyone that wants to infringe on our patents. We’re opening up everything. If someone wants to copy what we do, we do it at such a great efficient rate that it doesn’t matter and that’s that.”
You know, this is pretty much the exact opposite of what we’ve seen in the last decade with patent trolls and all that.

NASIR: Well, he’s definitely somebody that just tries to do things differently – to his advantage, of course. I mean, people could say that this is a move against the whole patent system in itself but I think the key here, from what I’m reading, is that this may be a move to get his technology on a wider scale. He’s talking to BMW right now to get them to share the cost in developing these charging stations, right? What I found interesting is that it wasn’t specified – at least in any of the media released – how he’s going to actually allow people to do this because there are ways to basically cede your rights to patents through the patent office. They have some kind of procedure for that but I don’t know if he’s going to do that because that’s kind of permanent. Or is he going to kind of make this an open source deal where you have specific licenses? There’s a lot of numbers of ways you can do this. It just depends upon how he wants to control it.

MATT: Yeah, I thought about that as well and what he kind of said was Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who in good faith wants to use our technology. So, I don’t know if people are going to be taking his word for it because it’s a little bit risky if that’s the case.

NASIR: Yeah, exactly. You’d want something in writing because what if he changes his mind? Is that something you can rely upon legally? I think that’s a little uncertain.
But my assumption is that this is recent news and, as time goes along, we’ll figure out exactly what his intentions are and how he wants to release this technology.

MATT: Yeah, and I think you’re right as well. Tesla’s doing all right but it has a very small percent of the market so maybe this is going to open things up and make things even better for Tesla even though it’s kind of helping out all your competitors. I mean, it is helping out your competitors, in theory.

NASIR: Yeah, I think there’s a reason why you have all these car dealerships on the same road in many different cities, right? It’s because, even if it’s competition, it helps in their sales because, all right, everyone, let’s go to that location and shop around for cars. It actually helps themselves. So, I think it’s kind of the same area. If you have more vehicles on the market with the same technology, I think that’s going to help Tesla because, like you said, it still has a very small market and they have their own legal challenges, too. I don’t know if we addressed that in the past with some states requiring them to actually have a dealership instead of going directly through to the consumer.

MATT: Yeah, I went car shopping for the first time in forever a few weeks ago and I did find it interesting. You go to these dealerships that are one specific brand or make and they’ll randomly just have other cars there from other competitors that are right next-door. I just thought that was funny. You know, it was probably trade-in situations but it’s like, “Oh, we have all these BMWs and we have these random Audis or whatever’s there.” Just like a Ford dealership with all these cars and a really different car that’s randomly inserted in here. I don’t know why someone would go to a dealership for a different type of car.

NASIR: Yeah, I agree with that.
[MUSIC]

MATT: All right. Question of the day.

NASIR: Question of the day.

MATT: “Our sales people get company cellphones that are for work use only. One of our recently fired employees wants the pictures on their phone. Do I have to give it to them?”
This is from someone in San Francisco.

NASIR: Okay, California. You know, California has some stricter privacy laws than other states. But I think this is a tough one because, from an employer perspective, when you give a company cellphone, you have to have certain policies for them – or at least you should – and really you should contemplate this issue at the end of your termination or whatever because these company cellphones may have proprietary data or confidential data and, a lot of times, what we do is we collect them and wipe the data. But, if you don’t have that policy in there and that sales person wants some personal stuff on that phone and it wasn’t really discussed whether you can use that for personal data or not, then there may be some overriding privacy issues from the state’s perspective that may come into play.

MATT: Yeah. I think, in this situation, the employer – assuming that they did have this policy in place and the employee agreed to it – they’re going to be more protected but there’s also stories out there of employers just wiping cellphones – personal cellphones – that had all personal data on it because I guess employees had agreed to the terms. You know, when something pops up and no one reads the terms and conditions except you and I. But everyone else, it pops up and they just hit “I agree.” But if you’re agreeing to have everything wiped out on your own personal phone, that’s kind of crazy.

NASIR: Absolutely. This kind of goes to everything that you’re keeping on a cellphone, especially for your job – whether it’s secure and all those communications and so forth and I’m sure there’s programs that do that as well.

MATT: Employees just need to send things through Cyberdust – that way, they know that they’re getting deleted after 30 seconds. You can send text, pictures, videos, what-have-you. Then, they don’t have to worry about it.

NASIR: Oh, yeah, is that Mark Cuban’s company?

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: Cyberdust?

MATT: He’s definitely involved in it. I don’t know how much but I see him talking about it all the time.

NASIR: And those are important things. I think, if you actually have the policy down and in combination with those security procedures, then you’ll be covered. But, at the same time, if they want pictures on the cellphone, is it that big of a deal to just give it to them or go through that process?

MATT: Yeah, I agree completely. It’s a work-issued phone and it’s supposed to be for work purposes. You know, technically, the employer is probably fine but, if they just want pictures that are on there, then there’s no harm in that – unless the pictures are of confidential documents from the company.

NASIR: That’s true, yeah. They didn’t specify that. We assumed they were personal pictures and, hopefully, not too personal pictures.
Okay. We answered that question.

MATT: We did.

NASIR: San Francisco company. I think that’s the first question we actually answered.

MATT: It only took 55 episodes which is conveniently my favorite number.

NASIR: 55? It takes forever just to count to 55.

MATT: Yeah, double nickels.

NASIR: And that’s your favorite number?

MATT: Double nickel.

NASIR: Double nickels. I think that’s ten double nickels but, you know, I’m not a mathematician.

MATT: That’s one nickel plus one nickel but all right.

NASIR: I guess you say you lay two nickels next to each other.

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: And that looks like 55. Okay.
All right. Well, thank you for joining us!

MATT: Yeah, keep it sound and keep it smart.

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Legally Sound Smart Business

A business podcast with a legal twist

Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
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