A federal court has issued a temporary restraining order against a World Wide Web site producer accused of publishing stolen trade secrets and other sensitive documents illegally obtained from Ford Motor Co.
The court order, issued Wednesday in Detroit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, temporarily stops Robert Lane, the owner of BlueOvalNews.com, from publishing confidential documents allegedly provided by some Ford employees.
Ford will ask the court next week for a permanent injunction against Lane and his site. That will mark the third time in a year that Ford has sought an injunction to stop Lane's Internet invasion of its inner sanctum.
FordNetwork.com and FordUnleashed.com, both operated by Lane, were silenced by the car company earlier this year in federal court actions that found the sites in violation of U.S trademark and copyright laws.
Efforts to reach Lane by phone yesterday were unsuccessful. But his feelings about Ford's latest legal maneuver were stated clearly on his site, BlueOvalNews.com.
"It's not what happens to BlueOvalNews that is of real importance, it's what happens to ALL OF OUR First Amendment Rights!" he declared. "This is precisely why BlueOvalNews will fight this lawsuit," said Lane, a lawyerless defendant who included an appeal "for any legal assistance in defense of these Constitutional rights."
The case, Lane said, amounts to "a BIG CORPORATION stepping on the toes of middle-class America and the freedom of the press--the whole constitution without regard."
But neither the court nor Ford officials saw things that way.
U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds said Ford would "suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage" if Lane's Web site continues to publish internal Ford documents "and other materials containing extremely competitive sensitive information on product development, engineering, performance, marketing and profitability."
The judge also said that through his Web site appeals to Ford employees to leak sensitive documents, Lane "intentionally interferes with Ford's contractual relations with its employees" by encouraging them to violate the company's confidentiality rules.
On his Web site, Lane also has promised that "BlueOvalNews will begin making certain blueprints [of future Ford vehicles] available for sale."
The judge's order blocks such transactions. In addition, the order prevents Lane from "destroying, despoiling or electronically deleting or erasing" any Ford documents in his possession that could be used as evidence in court. The judge also gave Lane 10 days to prevent a detailed inventory of those documents to the court and to Ford's attorneys.