Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Daniel Shickich


Under a new law, manufacturers and retailers that sell products in Washington State could face stiff penalties if their products are made using stolen or misappropriated information technology (“stolen IT”). In 2011 the Washington Legislature passed Substitute House Bill 1495, creating a new cause of action that allows private plaintiffs or the state attorney general to seek injunctive relief and damages against manufacturers that use stolen IT in their business operations. The law also creates an additional claim for actual damages of up to $250,000 against third parties who contract with violating manufacturers and sell the products in Washington. Using unfair competition law to address problems of piracy and infringement is a novel and unproven approach; it remains to be seen how companies will use the law, and how effective the law will prove in changing the behavior of manufacturers and their third-party business partners. This Article explores the legislative history and operation of the new Washington law, including the requirements for liability and “safe harbors” shielding businesses from enforcement. This Article also considers possible federal preemption challenges based on the law’s potential overlap with copyright law and federal commerce powers.

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