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Best Hollywood Set Locations Represent A Trade Secret?

from the yeah,-good-luck-with-that dept

THResq has a post about a lawsuit involving two companies who are focused on the business of finding the right set location for Hollywood films and movies. Apparently, it's a huge business. Universal Locations is upset that two of its employees went to a competitor called Site to Site Locations, and so they're suing, saying that the employees took trade secrets with them. The thing is, it appears that Universal Locations is trying to get past longstanding and well-established California laws barring non-compete agreements, because the state, reasonably, finds it ridiculous that you could ever be barred from making a living because you're too good at your job. Claiming "trade secrets" seems like an attempt to avoid that, but hopefully the court knocks that down pretty quickly by arguing against a ruling that would take away the ability of these two individuals to work in their field of expertise. Of course, it should come as no surprise that it's some movie industry companies making this argument. In a world where IP is highly overrated, no wonder they would think that they could effectively put DRM on former employees to keep them from competing in the same field.


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  1.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:10am

    Why not trade secret?

    If the first company worked hard to develop a catalog of location sites, and this gives them a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and they make reasonable efforts to keep this catalog secret, then that's pretty much a trade secret.

    It doesn't prevent anybody else from independently finding the same sites and building their own catalog, of course.

    It seems somewhat analogous to a customer list.

    HM

     

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  2.  
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    ohrn (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:41am

    Re: Why not trade secret?

    Well, filming said locations showing them off in movies for the world to see doesn't seem to be a very reasonable way to keep them secrets secret...

     

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  3.  
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    Anti-Mike Fanclub Member #1, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 12:55am

    Re: Re: Why not trade secret?

    We're talking about picturesque waterfalls in wooded hills with easy access to roads. Nothing about that set is going to give away its position, except to a trained bug scientist or plant scientist who recognizes a species in the movie

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 1:37am

    Re: Re: Why not trade secret?

    Well, I suppose there's value in proving locations that hasn't been used before. Directors probably don't want people to go, "hey, I've seen that place before-- remember that movie from last year?".

    This reminds me of the Microsoft/Google case. Although here the executive was going from Washington state (where, presumably the non-compete agreement was made) to California (non-competes "unenforcable"). The lawsuit was settled out-of-court.

    But this case "between two companies in Hollywood", however, seems more cut-and-dried.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 1:44am

    you can't trademark facts!

     

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  6.  
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    Any Mouse, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 1:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Why not trade secret?

    Or to a local, or to someone skimming news from all sources for information about filming... You think that stuff doesn't make the news? Trust me, you can't keep something like that a secret.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 2:57am

    California isn't the only place in the country with location scouts. If I was in this position, I suppose I will call various Governors offices around the country to find out if they offer:

    1.) A tax credit for work performed within the state for television or motion picture. Do they have discounts for the out-of-state crew for filming within their state (i.e. sales tax reimbursement, or discounted lodging for the crew)

    2.) What does it look like for 24 hour talent? For example, let's say I'm shooting a mocumentary and need someone who looks like Maznick but doesn't wear a brown coat. How big is the state talent pool? How long will it take to obtain them? Is it cheaper to get Mazzy on a plane? What if I just want his dog on a boat? Does the State have well trained dogs and other props that look like Mike available?

    These are serious questions which can be answered by calling around or just looking on wikipedia


    As long as Hollywood acts like it's the only place in town, it'll forget about what it lost to Toronto and other states.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 5:11am

    So long as all the locations are on private land and not public (maintained by tax dollars), then there shouldn't be a problem.

     

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    a-dub (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 6:09am

    If the two former employees can recall the locations by memory, they should be ok. Not sure about Cali laws, but in Louisiana, any trade secrets that can be retrieved from ones own memory is not covered under non-compete agreements. Basically the power of non-competes in Louisiana come from the threat and expense of a law suit. Otherwise they are basically powerless.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 6:46am

    It is quite easy to envision a whole raft of specific locations that are not generally known to the public and well suited for specific types of filming (e.g., interior locations). Thus, it is not a stretch in the slightest for a detailed list of such locations to constitute a trade secret under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act of California.

    See:

    http://w3.uchastings.edu/patent_01/Handouts/California%20Uniform%20Trade%20Se crets%20Act.pdf

    If, as the article states, it is true that the database for such locations was downloaded during the defendants' tenure with the plaintiff company, the defendants may very well have not only absconded with the plaintiff's purported trade secrets, but they may very well have violated fiduciary duties owned by them while they remained in the plaintiff's employ.

    Non-compete agreements have long been deemed unenforceable in California as contrary to public policy, but the calculus does change when trade secrets are involved. In such situationsit is not unheard of to impose certain time constraints such that the likehood of using the former employer's trade secrets has attenuated.

    In all candor, however, I have never drafted nor seen a provision in any employee agreement concerning the purported royalty requirement should a specific item(s) contained in an alleged trade secret database be used after an employee had left one company and become employed by its competitor.

     

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  11.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 7:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Why not trade secret?

    > I suppose there's value in proving locations
    > that hasn't been used before. Directors probably
    > don't want people to go, "hey, I've seen that
    > place before

    Not necessarily. There are places that are used so much, it's actually amusing when they pop up yet again. Vazquez Rocks is probably the most famous example. You may never have heard of the place, but I'll bet you recognize it when you see pictures of it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vazquez_Rocks

     

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  12.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Re:

    So I guess it's good nobody was talking about that.

    HM

     

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  13.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 9:42am

    Re: Re: Why not trade secret?

    Well, yeah, you would have a hard time claiming you have a trade secret in using Times Square as a location. I get that. However, there are plenty of locations that are not obvious merely from seeing them on the screen. Further, while the visual location may be obvious, the logistics around it (parking, who to get permits from, best caterers, etc., etc., etc.) may very well be something valuable when developed by a location company.

    I don't advocate that this sort of thing gets any ADDITIONAL protection from trade secret law - merely pointing out that it's just as eligible for such protection as any other business information.

    HM

     

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  14.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why not trade secret?

    The actual location itself might not stay secret easily, but all the logistical stuff about supporting that location may be worth keeping close to the vest in order to keep your competitors from poaching work from you.

    Maybe you've built up relationships with the locals and so have a list of good tradesmen, caterers, the best roads for accessing the site, where to park, how to get permits, local casting agents, equipment rental, etc., etc., etc.

    Yes, that is all stuff that can certainly be developed/discovered independently. BUT, until it is, there is a colorable argument that this represents a trade secret. Like a customer list.

    HM

     

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  15.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 9:51am

    Re:

    Tax dollars doesn't have anything to do with it.

    Yes, those locations that are more in the public eye are going to be harder to keep a secret, but the fact that tax dollars are somehow associated with it wouldn't be dispositive, IMHO.

    HM

     

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  16.  
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    Overtkill (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why not trade secret?

    Very funny... :)

    We call that one "Shatner Rock" in our house. :)

     

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  17.  
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    Overtkill (profile), Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 10:19am

    Hmm...

    Well, as long as these guys didn't sign a non-compete - Non disclosure agreements when they left Universal, I don't see how they think they can touch them. Those agreements usually only last six months to a year, and are largely treated as BS by courts anyway, since a person has to work in their profession to survive. :)

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:30am

    Other options

    California isn't the only place in the country with location scouts. If I was in this position, I suppose I will call various Governors offices around the country to find out if they offer:

    1.) A tax credit for work performed within the state for television or motion picture. Do they have discounts for the out-of-state crew for filming within their state (i.e. sales tax reimbursement, or discounted lodging for the crew)

    2.) What does it look like for 24 hour talent? For example, let's say I'm shooting a mocumentary and need someone who looks like Maznick but doesn't wear a brown coat. How big is the state talent pool? How long will it take to obtain them? Is it cheaper to get Mazzy on a plane? What if I just want his dog on a boat? Does the State have well trained dogs and other props that look like Mike available?

    These are serious questions which can be answered by calling around or just looking on wikipedia


    As long as Hollywood acts like it's the only place in town, it'll forget about what it lost to Toronto and other states.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 11:34am

    Other options

    California isn't the only place in the country with location scouts. If I was in this position, I suppose I will call various Governors offices around the country to find out if they offer:

    1.) A tax credit for work performed within the state for television or motion picture. Do they have discounts for the out-of-state crew for filming within their state (i.e. sales tax reimbursement, or discounted lodging for the crew)

    2.) What does the talent market look like? For example, let's say I'm shooting a mocumentary and need someone who looks like Maznick but doesn't wear a brown coat. How big is the state talent pool? How long will it take to obtain them? Is it cheaper to get Mazzy on a plane? What if I just want his dog on a boat? Does the State have well trained dogs and other props that look like Mike available? These are very serious questions that should be researched.

    If you're not very talented director, you can look up some answers on wikipedia.

    But don't forget, it's a focused effort to create art, and *not protections* that made cities such as Toronto what it is today.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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