is a constitutional law expert and President of the Committee For Justice, a nonprofit legal and policy organization that focuses on the judiciary, law and technology, regulatory reform, and individual liberty. Before attending Harvard Law School, Curt earned an M.S. and B.A. in computer science from Brown University, where he studied artificial intelligence and cognitive science. Subsequently, he worked for five years as a staff scientist at an AI startup company, where he designed and built numerous AI systems, published peer-reviewed articles about machine learning, and invented and patented pioneering neural network technology.
The normally staid world of intellectual property law was buzzing last year about one of the biggest trade secret cases and largest punitive damages awards in American history. The case involves automated valuation models (AVMs), which are computer models typically generated by machine learning—a form of artificial intelligence—and used to estimate property values by analyzing the property’s attributes, comparable properties, and the like. Jaws dropped last March when a Texas jury awarded HouseCanary, a Silicon Valley company specializing in residential real estate data and analytics, more than $700 million in compensatory and punitive damages after accepting its claims that it possessed AVM-related trade secrets that were allegedly misappropriated by Amrock (formerly Title Source), one of the nation’s largest appraisal and title service companies. The jury’s verdict might lead you to believe that Amrock is guilty of one of the most blatant and outrageous intellectual property thefts in history. But when you look closer, it is the jury’s verdict that is outrageous and nearly impossible to justify. I say that not only as a lawyer, but also as someone who built AVMs much like those at issue here before attending law school.