SW Legal studies in Business

Distribution of Spam on Company E-Mail System Is Trespass
Description Appeals court upheld an injunction against a former Intel employee who distributed several e-mails complaining about the company to thousands of Intel employees on the Intel e-mail system. This misuse of company property was trespass to chattels that warranted an injunction against further invasions.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Trespass to Chattels; Unsolicited E-mail
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts After Hamidi was fired by Intel, he obtained Intel's e-mail address list and sent e-mails complaining about the company to between 8,000 and 35,000 employees at least six times and refused to comply with Intel's demand that he stop. Intel sued him for trespass to chattels, contending that Intel had to spend resources to block and remove Hamidi's e-mails from the Intel system, which is governed by company policy. The trial court held that Hamidi had committed trespass to chattels (personal property) and issued an injunction against sending further unsolicited e-mails to addresses on Intel's computers. Hamidi appealed.

Affirmed. "Trespass to chattels is somewhat arcane and suffers from desuetude.... However, the tort has reemerged as an important rule of cyberspace.... The most common application is for a physical taking, even if momentary." "Hamidi's conduct was trespassory. Even assuming Intel has not demonstrated sufficient ‘harm' to trigger entitle to nominal damages for past breaches of decorum by Hamidi, it showed he was disrupting its business by using its property and therefore is entitle to injunctive relief based on a theory of trespass to chattels." Intel was injured by the loss of productivity caused by thousands of employees distracted from work and by the time the security department spent trying to block the distribution of Hamidi's e-mails.

Citation Intel Corporation v. Hamidi, 114 Cal.Rptr.2d 244 (Ct. App., Calif., 2001)

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