One of the more interesting questions when it comes to intellectual property is how much ownership people or companies have over things. Companies tend to claim they have control over a lot more than they really do. We've seen way too many cases of companies claiming a copyright over factual information -- which cannot be covered by copyright. One area that has come up a few times is pricing information. Does a company own the right to its own pricing info? A few years ago, Wal-Mart sued an online deals site for publishing their Thanksgiving deals prices a few days early. While Wal-Mart eventually backed down, other retailers have done the same thing. In that situation, the deal site is simply posting factual information -- which isn't subject to copyright. However, what if it's a case where a price list is considered a trade secret? Medical device firm Guidant is now suing a watchdog group that is publishing some of its prices. In this case, the situation is a bit different. The watchdog group got the prices when hundreds of hospitals volunteered the info on the prices they paid for equipment. Guidant claims that the info is confidential and needs to be deleted. The counter argument that there's a "national interest" in publishing this information seems weak, but it's still not clear if the watchdog group has done anything wrong. After all, the hospitals voluntarily gave them the factual information about what they paid. Should Guidant still retain control over such information? It's possible that Guidant's contract terms require the hospital to keep that info confidential -- but then the dispute should be between Guidant and the hospitals who breached the contract, not the watchdog group. All the group has done is published factual information that was voluntarily given to it -- and that should be out of Guidant's control.
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