2016 Annual Meeting
October 27-29, 2016 in Washington, DC

At the AIPLA's annual meeting, John Rome, our CEO (and an attorney), spoke to the gathering about Practical Tips for Trade Secret Protection in the Ever-Evolving Digital Age.

Law and technology have a long and tangled history. Technology has a tendency to lurch forward; law usually struggles to keep up. Similarly, attorneys have a long and sometimes strained history with technology. The progression of technology has inarguably made the legal profession more efficient, but that progression is also at the heart of many attorneys’ contemporary challenges. Many of the interactions between the progression of technology and the evolution of functional law practice centers around modes of information communication and storage. Electricity gave rise to lighting. Electronic telecommunications let everyone work longer and get in touch with colleagues and clients more easily. Fax machines allowed businesses and attorneys to transfer and execute documents at a moment’s notice. But the convenience of instant printing and easy document transfer had the side effect of potentially generating unnecessary copies of documents and thereby creating large numbers of dense records in the event of litigation. Digital storage and the internet have provided professionals with essentially infinite storage and instantaneous transmission — but have led to an exponential proliferation of data to manage. The explosion of electronic data that now needs to be managed in both transactional and adversarial practice has given rise to a whole new level of practice complexity, and created a new mandatory skillset for lawyers practicing in today’s modern environment. The ability to store almost everything with no limits, and the ability to access almost anything almost immediately, has also created an environment where parties with interests adverse to practitioners and their clients often have access to largely the same toolset and information stores which they can leverage to compromise the wealth of client and internal data that attorneys must manage in their day-to-day practice.

The Panama Papers Incident has shone an unflattering light even on the data security practices of modern law firms. Additionally, the American Lawyer reported that “dozens of big firms” were targeted by a Russian Hacker “Oleras” in a scheme to extract data on M&A activity for trading purposes. These two high-profile incidents may very well just be the beginning of things to come. The technological, business, and legal factors that led to these incidents are here to stay, and any changes that may occur will likely render these types of incidents more prevalent. Legal and business professionals must be continuously vigilant to prevent as many incidents like these as possible. Our trade needs to face the possibility of a breach head on, ahead of time. The ever-present threat of a data breach, the rising cost of defending against data breaches, and the cost of repairing or managing a data breach begs the question: “how much security is enough?”


Founded in 1897, AIPLA is a national bar association constituted primarily of lawyers in private and corporate practice, in government service, and in the academic community. AIPLA represents a wide and diverse spectrum of individuals from law firms, companies, and institutions involved directly or indirectly in the practice of patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, and unfair competition law, as well as other fields of law affecting intellectual property. Our members represent both owners and users of intellectual property.
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