As a Florida business owner, you know the value of your trade secrets, processes, and intellectual property as intangible assets. It is essential to protect your company’s rights, but there can be limitations when you try to safeguard them through restrictive covenants. Fortunately, there is another layer of protection under Florida’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The statute takes the position that confidential information is an asset that deserves protection from theft by employees, vendors, and other parties that have access to it.
Businesses that suffer harm from trade secret misappropriation have a civil right of action to seek monetary damages and equitable remedies. As with any lawsuit, there are certain things plaintiffs must prove to show they are entitled to relief; the defendant may also take advantage of defenses to escape liability. Your Clearwater business law attorney can explain the important points for both issues, and a summary is useful.
Elements of Trade Secret Misappropriation
There are two key prohibitions in the statute, so a person can be liable for:
- Acquiring trade secrets knowing that the information was obtained illegally; or,
- Using or disclosing illegally obtained trade secrets without permission.
There is a knowledge element with respect to trade secrets, so a plaintiff must also prove that the defendant knew that:
- The trade secret was derived from someone who illegally acquired it;
- The information was protected by policies to maintain secrecy or limit usage outside the company;
- The trade secret was obtained through a person who had a legal duty to keep it confidential.
The most common scenario for trade secret misappropriation is through current or former employees who seek to gain an advantage from the aggrieved company’s competitor. Other culprits for misappropriation of trade secrets may be a vendor or business partner that had access as part of dealings with the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s remedies include Florida business litigation to seek monetary damages, but it is also possible to request injunctive relief in the form of a cease and desist.
Defenses in Trade Secrets Cases
You may have sufficient proof to enforce your company’s rights under the statute, but keep in mind that defenses may affect your case. A few strategies include:
- The information is not a trade secret because the defendant acquired it through independent development;
- The trade secret is information already within the public domain; or,
- The plaintiff did not undertake appropriate efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the trade secret. With this defense, you can see how the law imposes a burden on the plaintiff to protect the information.
Trust a Clearwater, FL Business Litigation Lawyer for Help with Lawsuits
Information on proving trade secret misappropriation is helpful, but your case could be complicated if defenses apply. For more information on how to protect your company’s interests, please call Clearwater Business Law. Our office serves businesses and individuals throughout Pinellas County, so we are ready to assist with your case. You can call (727) 785-5100 to set up a consultation with a member of our team.