UPDATED WITH EXCLUSIVE NEW DETAILS: Sequoia CEO Jack Blaine Admits Company Does Not Control the Intellectual Property Rights for Sequoia's Voting Machines!
By Brad Friedman on 4/25/2008, 1:30pm PT  

[UPDATED: Please be sure to see the update, containing exclusive, previously unreported news, added at the bottom of this article.]

The BRAD BLOG learned this morning that a New Jersey judge has today given plaintiffs and Princeton University computer scientists the right to examine the state's Sequoia AVC Advantage touch-screen voting machines which failed to record voter totals accurately, in at least six different counties, during the Garden State's recent Super Tuesday primary.

Sequoia had previously both threatened legal action against the professors, despite a unanimous request from a state association of county election clerks, and attempted to quash the court-ordered subpoenas to have the machines impounded and examined independently.

The Courier-Post confirms this afternoon, and publishes the following account of the Judge's decision today...

A New Jersey judge says voting rights activists should have a chance to examine the programming of touch-screen voting machines.

The order was issued today by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg in Trenton. She dropped a May trial date on the reliability of the machines but says the trial should start by September.

She has been asked to decide if the state's 10,000 electronic voting machines should be scrapped, as the voting rights advocates contend.

The state of New Jersey says the machines should continue to be used in elections.

The manufacturer of the machines, Sequoia Voting Systems, has resisted efforts to have the machines tested independently.

The BRAD BLOG has covered this (sometimes very amusing) saga in great detail, since it first came to light following the election (and even on Election Day, when machine failure kept the NJ Governor from being able to cast his own vote for 45 minutes).

For those who haven't been able to keep up with it all, a post which quickly recaps the bulk of Sequoia's disgraceful NJ behavior can be read here.

We've also continued to cover (with complete exclusivity, unless someone else in the media cares to join us! Hello?) the saga of beleaguered Sequoia's fight for their very life, as they attempt to fend off a hostile take-over by competitor Hart InterCivic.

IMPORTANT/EXCLUSIVE UPDATE!: AP jumps in with a few more details raising a point which The BRAD BLOG can reveal here for the first time, concerning Sequoia's "intellectual property" rights. Namely, they neither own, nor control them, as admitted recently by the company's own CEO...

From the AP story:

A spokeswoman for Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia, Michelle M. Shafer, said the company will cooperate, noting that the judge will later devise an order to protect its proprietary information.

"We believe this result protects both the publics' interest and Sequoia's legitimate rights in its intellectual property and trade secrets," she said in an e-mail.

For all of Sequoia's alleged concerns about "intellectual property," we suspect the judge and the plaintiff's attorneys in NJ might be interested to know that Sequoia President and CEO Jack Blaine recently confirmed that they don't control the IP of Sequoia voting machines!

We can confirm that Blaine recently told employees, in a confidential, company-wide phone conference --- convened to inform them of the attempted takeover by Hart InterCivic, as they were forced to, after The BRAD BLOG broke the story --- that "it doesn't really matter" whether Sequoia has control of the intellectual property rights for its voting systems, since Sequoia has no claim to them.

As he admitted during the phone call, the IP rights for their voting systems are controlled not by Sequoia, nor by its alleged current owner, SVS Holdings, Inc. --- of which Blaine is also CEO/President, and VP/Spokesperson Shafer is a shareholding partner --- but by its supposedly former parent company, Smartmatic.

When he was asked by an employee, during the recent conference call, about the fact that the proposed deal would give Sequoia's intellectual property to its competitor, Hart, as confirmed by the 4/4/08 court documents we published [PDF], Blaine responded cavalierly: "It doesn't matter whether you have the IP rights, or you don't have the IP rights."

"We have the source code, and we have the right to modify it any way we want to modify it," he explained, concerning the company's agreement with Smartmatic. "So it doesn't matter really whether we have the IP or not."

"I didn't particularly want the IP [presumably when he negotiated Sequoia/SVS deal with Smartmatic]...as we've discussed in the past, I believe we've really come across the perfect time to change our portfolio going forward. And it's not gonna be dependent on the Smartmatic technology, or the IP or anything else. It's gonna be dependent on what we collectively believe the market, and what the future standards, will require."

In other words, again, from the admissions of Sequoia's own CEO and President, the company has no apparent claim over the IP rights for Sequoia's voting machines, including the rights for the machines whose independent examination is currently being negotiated with the judge in NJ.

We'd be happy to offer more details to either the judge or the plaintiff's attorneys working on the case, of course.

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