A lawyer in Cisco’s intellectual property department, Rick Frenkel, created the Patent Troll Tracker blog. Rick started his anonymous blog in May 2007, writing frequently and broadly on patents and presenting relevant data related to patent litigation, an area currently of great public interest, in which Cisco also has an interest. He identified himself as the author of the blog in a posting on his site on February 23, 2008. Once his authorship became public, confusion was created between Rick’s views and Cisco’s views on various patent issues discussed in his blog.
What We Learned
As we have investigated this issue, there are clear lessons we have learned. There are two very distinct issues in this situation that have been instructive:
1. No one from Cisco edited Rick’s anonymous postings or required him to write on any topic, no one in his chain of command beyond his immediate supervisor knew that he was the author of Troll Tracker, and Rick intended that the blog solely reflect his opinions. However, given that Rick worked on intellectual property matters for Cisco, Rick’s relationship to Cisco should have been made clear and Cisco takes responsibility for the content of the blog.
2. We believe that a few Cisco employees used poor judgment when they suggested topics to Rick for his anonymous blog or pointed third parties to the blog without disclosing that the content was created by a Cisco employee. These are not appropriate communications activities for Cisco employees and are inconsistent with our values and principles.
These shortcomings began innocently – with Rick’s desire for personal anonymity and Cisco employees’ desire to disseminate useful information while respecting Rick’s anonymity. But eventually this opened the door for a perception that Cisco somehow had something to hide. Cisco is committed to transparency in our communications and in the relationships we have with all of our constituencies, and we regret that this situation occurred.
We are committed to our policy of allowing our employees appropriate online expression. As an employee, Rick is free to continue his personal blog, Patent Troll Tracker, in compliance with the revised policy. Rick has many fans who appreciate the information he collects and disseminates on patent litigation trends and recognize his blog as an important voice in the on-going national dialogue on patent issues.
Blogging and blog policy are evolving areas for many companies. We believe we have learned a valuable lesson from this regrettable situation. Our goal now is to bring further clarity to our employees in the area of online communication, and our hope is that others will learn from this experience as well.
From Cisco's Internet Postings Policy :
Your Internet postings should not disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary to the company or to any third party that has disclosed information to Cisco.
If you comment on any aspect of the company’s business or any policy issue in which the company is involved and in which you have responsibility, you must clearly identify yourself as a Cisco employee in your postings or blog site(s) and include a disclaimer that the views are your own and not those of Cisco. In addition, Cisco employees should not circulate postings they know are written by other Cisco employees without informing the recipient that the author of the posting is a Cisco employee.
Your Internet posting should reflect your personal point of view, not necessarily the point of view of Cisco. Because you are legally responsible for your postings, you may be subject to liability if your posts are found defamatory, harassing, or in violation of any other applicable law. You may also be liable if you make postings which include confidential or copyrighted information (music, videos, text, etc.) belonging to third parties. All of the above mentioned postings are prohibited under this policy.
When posting your point of view, you should neither claim nor imply you are speaking on Cisco’s behalf, unless you are authorized in writing by your manager to do so.
If you identify yourself as a Cisco employee on any Internet posting, refer to the work done by Cisco or provide a link on a Cisco website, you are required to include the following disclaimer in a reasonably prominent place: “the views expressed on this post are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cisco.”
Your Internet postings should not include Cisco’s logos or trademarks, and should respect copyright, privacy, fair use, financial disclosure, and other applicable laws.