Lawyers acting on behalf of a sacked Intel employee are arguing at the California Supreme Court this week that former engineer Ken Hamidi has the right to send thousands of emails to Intel employees which sharply criticise the company for firing him.
Hamidi’s lawyers are arguing on the grounds of his right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
Intel counters that it is merely restricting access to its intranet system, which it says is private property.
Lawyers for Hamidi said that the mails did not constitute trespassing because Intel didn’t show that there was damage to the property as a result.
His defence further argued that: “The only alleged damage it claims was that it distracted people. If the court rules in favour of Intel every time a large company doesn’t like the content of what someone says in an email they’re going to try to get an injunction.”
Hamidi, who was fired after he had taken disability leave, had sent six emails to 30,000 employees between 1996 and 1998.
Two lower courts had already ruled that Intel could stop Hamidi from sending the mails.
On one of those occasions the judge rejected Hamidi’s argument that Intel had failed to show it was injured by the emails, emphasising that employee productivity had been badly affected.
At the time Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said: “It’s important to note that from the outset this particular case has been about trespass. It’s not about freedom of speech.”
He said Hamidi was free to criticise Intel via any other means including the anti-Intel website www.faceintel.com.
Industry experts have said that if Intel wins the case it could result in the barring of other forms of electronic signals such as telephone messages and TV broadcasts.
It’s understood Hamidi lost his home in trying to raise money to fight Intel.
A decision on the case is expected in 90 days.
By Suzanne Byrne