Does a Customer List Qualify for Trade Secret Protection in Florida?
A trade secret is a protected form of intellectual property. Under federal and state law, trade secrets come in a wide variety of different forms — from specific formulas and designs to business method and practices.
Depending on the specific circumstances, a customer list may qualify for trade secret protection in Florida. That being said, such protection is not automatically granted. Not all customer lists can be protected as trade secrets. Here, our West Palm Beach commercial litigation attorneys explain the most important things to know about protecting customer lists as trade secrets in Florida.
Florida Law: A Three-Part Test for Trade Secret Protection
The Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (FUTSA) is the primary state law that companies can use to protect trade secrets in our state. Under the FUTSA, customer information will sometimes, but not always, qualify to be protected as a trade secret. In applying this law, Florida courts use a three-part test to determine whether or not something — such as a customer list — qualifies for trade secret protection. That three-part test is as follows:
- A trade secret must be actual information (a customer list satisfies this element);
- A trade secret must have real commercial value that is based, in part, on maintaining its secrecy (a customer list sometimes satisfies this element); and
- A trade secret must be actual confidential information that the business has taken proactive steps to protect (a customer list sometimes satisfies this element).
The primary takeaway here is that customer lists can be protected as trade secrets in Florida if they are commercially valuable, include non-public information, and are being actively protected by the company. If any of these elements are not met, the customer list may not be protected intellectual property.
Understanding When Customer Lists are Trade Secrets
A Florida appeals court has previously held that a company’s customer list that contained every client that has purchased services from the firm in the past eight years did qualify for trade secret protection. The court concluded that the information was non-public, valuable to the company, and that the company put substantial resources into maintaining it.
On the other hand, the same appeals court found that another company’s list of prospective customers, which simply contained a list of businesses that might use their services, was not eligible for trade secret protection on the grounds that the information was too easy and inexpensive to obtain independently.
Get Help From a Florida Trade Secret Attorney Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida commercial litigation lawyers have deep experience handling all types of trade secret cases. If you are involved in a trade secret dispute related to a customer list, we are prepared to help. For a fully private assessment of your case, please contact us at our Miami law office or our West Palm Beach law office right away. Our law firm is committed to representing companies throughout Southeastern Florida.