Defending a Trade Secret Misappropriation Allegation
Trade secret misappropriation can lead to very serious consequences. Your company might face a misappropriation claim for many reasons, from the careless actions of a single employee to a good faith misunderstanding or even simply because another business is taking illegitimate legal action. If you, or your company, has been accused of trade secret misappropriation, it is important to act quickly. Please contact an experienced Florida commercial litigation attorney for immediate legal assistance.
What is Trade Secret Misappropriation?
Trade secrets are protected under Florida law. An affected business may bring legal action if they believe that their secrets have been misused. In order to make a successful trade secret misappropriation claim, the plaintiff must prove the following three legal elements:
- The alleged trade secret contained ‘valuable’ business information;
- Resources were put forth in order to develop that valuable information; and
- The defendant actually misused the alleged trade secret.
Common Trade Secret Defenses
A trade secret misappropriation claim can be defended by undermining any of the previously mentioned legal elements. Further, there are also several important legal defenses that are available, including:
- Independent development: a trade secret is not a patent. Even if another business initially developed a ‘trade secret, they do not have exclusive rights to that information. If you can prove that your company developed the trade secret internally, there will be no liability for trade secret misappropriation. One major advantage of the ‘independent development’ trade secret defense is that the defendant has total control over the evidence. You can use any of your internal company documents to help make your defense.
- Public information: No party can claim ‘trade secret’ protection for information that is fully in the public domain. Similar to independent development, if your company can show that the alleged trade secret was already public knowledge, then no misappropriation occurred. To prove that information was in the public domain, your attorney can refer to a wide variety of sources, including academic journals, speeches, books or patents.
- Failure to protect: Finally, your company will not be held liable for trade secret misappropriation if the plaintiff failed to make proper efforts to protect their information. For example, imagine that the plaintiff company worked on a project with a third party contractor. During that project, the plaintiff gave information about the alleged trade secret to that contractor. However, at no point did the contractor sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement. If, in the future, that contractor shares the alleged trade secret with your business then no misappropriation has occurred. The contractor has no legal duty to keep that information secret, and therefore the plaintiff has failed to properly protect their trade secret and they lose their legal rights to that information.
Contact Our Office Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our business litigation attorneys have extensive experience handling trade secret legal issues. If you have been accused of trade secret misappropriation, please contact our West Palm Beach office today at (561)-291-8298 to schedule a free legal consultation. Our firm proudly serves clients throughout South Florida, including in Miami and Coral Gables.