In the highly capitalistic western society, the emergence of new business sectors with legal challenges in tow has always been the norm. Although not every business necessarily faces litigation problems, many major companies have resorted to the courts to resolve their issues.
With the advent of the internet and social media, it is clear that the constantly evolving field of technology has a significant impact on our present and the future. Among all types of businesses in the modern tech industry, a niche known as New and Emerging Technologies is considered the golden egg. Before we explore the complexities of legal tech disputes, it is imperative to understand a bit more about the tech industry.
What are New and Emerging Technologies?
The phrase New and Emerging Technologies or NET encompasses all the most advanced, state-of-the-art, and unique developments in the world of modern technology. When this term was first coined, it mainly defined artificial intelligence. But now, it ropes in a variety of fields such as genetic engineering, social media networks, zero-emission automobiles, nanotechnology, space exploration, and a whole lot more.
These cutting-edge technologies are lumped in one group mainly due to their potential impact on human civilization and our advancement as a species. Thus, governments and regulatory powers monitor NET improvements closely so that it isn’t misused.
Of course, with such potential comes an incredible scope to run a highly-lucrative tech business. But along with it comes a string of legal issues, for everyone wants a slice of the pie. Thus, legal troubles in this sector are typical, if not inevitable, in some cases.
Why are Tech Legal Disputes complicated?
Here are a few reasons why legal disputes in the tech industry are highly complicated and nuanced:
- If there are multiple companies in the same field, then it is really difficult to differentiate between their technological prowess. But the devil’s in the details, and a small algorithm or code might be the only thing that truly sets apart any two competitors in the same niche. Sometimes, even these low-level features might be the same, and a trade secret or a concept might become a point of contention between two tech giants.
- Another thing to note is the constantly evolving nature of technology. Sometimes, these developments are so rapid that even legislation can’t keep a tab on them. It is not uncommon to see major changes in a particular technology even during the course of a trial. So how does one write or modify laws at such a rapid pace?
- To further elaborate on the above point, most laws today were written for traditional businesses. With the evolution of technology, new and innovative business models have been developed to deal with the constant chaos of the industry. Thus, it may not be right to judge a tech firm with the archaic laws of traditional businesses. A great example of this trend is Uber and Lyft, which were slapped with multiple lawsuits because their business models didn’t adhere to laws meant for typical taxis. As you might have guessed, these businesses suffered as they fought to clear their name.
Thus, in the NET field, setting up a business is a high-risk, high reward game. However, there are a few tips that might minimize the risk factor of running into legal troubles.
How to Navigate the Legal Challenges of New Tech Disputes
1. Understand the Different Types of Legal Hassles
To be better prepared to deal with legal issues, it is essential to understand your business’s types of threats. In the realm of New and Emerging Technologies, legal troubles can be broadly classified as privacy law, the law of evidence, copyright law, and patent law.
- The law of evidence might become a problem if you are trying to prove something in a court of law. Basically, information gathered on the internet as proof of facts might not be considered authentic in court as the data may have been collected by unethical means. Information gathered from social media might still work, but only if it is authentic, and as we all know, it is easy to manipulate data on social networking sites. Hence, formerly accepted evidence might be rebutted in light of new information that challenges the previous claim.
- The copyright law is pretty self-explanatory. If you have collected, published or used copyrighted data, content, or works created by another user or company without their express permission, then they have the right to file a lawsuit against you or your firm.
- With open-source software becoming the norm, patents on technology are often discouraged, but there are still corporations that have patents on certain inventions. Hence, it’s easy to unwittingly commit a patent law violation.
When you are aware of these potential legal threats, you are not only better prepared to tackle these issues concerning business legalities. Still, you are also better equipped to sidestep these legal hassles altogether while streamlining your business process.
2. Prepare a Business Strategy to Minimize Legal Risk
Due to the high risk of litigation in the tech industry, being legally prepared should be an essential business strategy. Apart from investing in research, marketing, and supply chain, it would be best to create a detailed plan of action to be better prepared for lawsuits coming out of the left field.
To elaborate further, here is a great example: In 2008, Vlingo, a voice recognition company, was becoming famous for its technological prowess and was all set to team up with tech giants like Google and Apple. Then, a competitor called Nuance hit Vlingo with a patent infringement claim. After a long and drawn-out legal battle, the company won the case but lost all its capital in the process and ended up selling the company to the competitor.
To avoid such a terrible scenario, it is advisable to invest in legal strategy from the very first day. That way, if and when you do face litigation, you can be better prepared from a financial standpoint. Moreover, the innovation and growth of your company need not be sacrificed in the process. Ultimately, legal battles are taxing, but they don’t have to become career-ending mistakes.
3. Work With Knowledgeable Lawyers and Industry-Experts
Let’s face it. Not every entrepreneur has the legal acumen to grasp the complex laws related to the NET niche entirely. This is why it’s important to rope in the tech experts and corporate lawyers in your corner to shield you from both technical and legal ends.
The Apple versus Samsung lawsuit underlines the role of tech & legal experts in courtroom proceedings. The two tech giants battled it out in the courts over smartphone patents. The judges were not very well-versed with the technical nuances of the case. However, both parties brought in industry experts, who made the judges understand the technical complexity of the subject and helped provide a substantial monetary sum on the patent dispute.
Just like these global juggernauts, you too can win major legal battles with the best lawyers and experts on your side. Hence, don’t hesitate to invest in this side of the business.
All this might seem daunting at first glance, but if you are an entrepreneur looking to make a mark in the tech industry, you need to be prepared for the legal hurdles that might come your way. While there is no way to avoid such troubles altogether, you can at least be better equipped to deal with them calmly and efficiently with the help of these tips.
Our guest Contributor
Dhruv Mehta is a Digital Marketing Professional who works as a brand consultant and provides solutions in the digital era. In his free time, he loves to write about marketing, finance & tech. Reach out to him on Digital Dhruv or connect with him on LinkedIn.