Regulatory safe harbor bars claim over meaning of “gigabyte”

Dinan
v. SanDisk LLC, 844 Fed.Appx. 978, No. 20-15287 (9th Cir. 2021)

SanDisk
allegedly violated the usual California consumer protection statutes by using
gigabyte (“GB”) to mean 1,000,000,000 bytes (“the decimal definition”), when plaintiffs
assumed gigabyte as used by SanDisk meant 1,073,741,824 bytes (“the binary
definition”). The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. California’s
safe harbor doctrine protected SanDisk’s labeling, because relevant statutes clearly
permitted the use of the metric system as published by the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST), and NIST publications instruct that the
metric prefix “giga” and the symbol “G” mean 1,000,000,000, which corresponds
to the decimal definition of gigabyte.

 Both California and federal law expressly
authorize use of the metric system in commerce. 15 U.S.C. § 204 (“It shall be
lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and
measures of the metric system….”); Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 12301.
California law expressly provides that the definitions and tables for weight
and measure “as published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology
… shall govern weighing and measuring equipment and transactions in this
state.” And NIST has made clear that “giga” is a metric prefix that means
1,000,000,000.

 

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