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Florida Court Rules Against Uber in Trade Secret Dispute

BusinessLaw

Businesses have the legal ability to protect certain valuable information as ‘trade secrets’. There are often disputes over what types of information can be protected by trade secret laws. A recent case involving Uber raised a very interesting question: Can a private company protect sensitive business information as a trade secret if that information was voluntarily shared with the government?

In Florida, the answer to the question appears to be ‘no’. In the case of Rasier-DC, LLC vs B&L Service, Inc, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled against Uber, determining Florida’s public records laws take precedence over trade secret provisions in government contracts. Here, our top-rated West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys analyze this case and explain the implications for Florida businesses.

Uber Wanted to Keep Certain Business Information Private 

Rasier-DC, LLC is a subsidiary company of Uber. Through this company, Uber entered into a licensing agreement with Broward County, Florida. The agreement allowed Uber access to customers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and at Port Everglades. As part of the agreement, Broward County agreed to maintain confidentiality of all of Uber’s “trade secret information”. In effect, this means that the agreement called for county officials to deny any public record requests pertaining to Uber’s sensitive information.

A Competitor Sought Access to the Information  

Soon after the Uber started picking up customers at the airport, a competitor, Yellow Cab, made a public records request. This request was quite broad; the company asked for access to all information that Broward County had regarding:

  • Uber trips originating from the airport of from Port Everglades; and
  • Full payment records for any related transactions.

Broward County responded to the request by noting that most of these records were covered by the trade secret provision that Uber included in the licensing agreement. Thus, the records would not be released without Uber’s approval. County officials produced a heavily redacted set of records.

Appeals Court: Trade Secret Protection Does Not Apply  

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that this information is not entitled to trade secret protections. The court noted that under Florida law, the intentions behind public record requests are irrelevant. The law is designed to promote maximum government transparency. Broward County does not have the legal authority to hold back information to protect a private company’s trade secrets. If Uber wants to enter into a business agreement with a state or local government, then the company must accept the fact that their information is subject to public records laws. This is an important decision: Florida companies need to be aware of what they are voluntarily sharing with state and local government agencies as that information may be released to the public.

Contact Our Florida Business Law Attorneys Today

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida business law attorneys have deep experience handling trade secrets cases. If your business is involved in a dispute over trade secret infringement, we can help. For a free, no obligation consultation, please contact our law firm today. With offices in Miami and West Palm Beach, we serve clients in communities throughout the region, including in Homestead, Hialeah, North Miami Beach, Jupiter, and Lake Worth.

Resource:

edca.4dca.org/DCADocs/2016/3070/163070_1257_01102018_09285349_i.pdf

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