Imagine your former employee is suddenly using all of your trade secrets to create his or her own business that competes with yours. Or, maybe a competing company hired your employee away from you in order to profit financially from the trade secrets your employee learned. In some situations, the law could be on your side.
Federal and California state laws protect your trade secrets in many situations. One federal law, known as the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, makes it illegal to steal trade secrets from another company. In fact, if another company or person tries to steal and profit from trade secrets that belong to another company, it can trigger fines of as much as $5 million and as many as 10 years in prison. Through the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), which many states have adopted, those injured by trade secret theft can also sue to protect their trade secrets under state law.
In order to prevail in a trade secret lawsuit, litigants generally need to prove that the information stolen qualifies as a “trade secret” due to the fact that it is:
- Information that is not generally known
- Information that is not readily learned
- Information that is kept in secret
- Information that has economic value based on its secret nature
If you believe that your trade secrets were unlawfully stolen, you may have the ability to pursue a claim in court to protect your secrets. If you’re facing a situation like this, learning more about trade secret law is the best way to protect your intellectual property rights.