As Fort Lauderdale business litigation lawyers, we see it all the time—especially in Florida. A business owner frantically visits us because a former employee has hijacked the business’s customer, supplier, or inventory lists; started their own company or other competing business venture; and basically assumed the identity of the business from which it departed. In other situations, a former employee may steal (and then use as his or her own) a secret recipe or formula that makes the client’s business uniquely special. What can a business do to protect itself from becoming the victim of theft of trade secrets?
Tip 1: Take an inventory of information that should be kept secret
Under Florida’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act, a “trade secret” is any information, including any formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that: (a) is economically valuable to a business precisely because it’s not readily ascertainable by others (using proper means) who may also obtain economic value from the information; and (b) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable
under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. See § 688.002(4), Fla. Stat. (2017). Notably, “trade secrets” include compilations of information, such as customer, supplier, and inventory lists. For most business enterprises, customer lists are critically important, because the information contained on the lists (prospective buyers or consumers of products or services) are not readily ascertainable by others and provide economic value to the business. Equally important, however, may be pricing, supplier, and inventory lists.
Take, for example, restaurants, which often utilize recipes that are not readily ascertainable by others and that provide economic value to the restaurant. For obvious reasons, the owners of such a restaurant might wish to conceal its recipes from all or some of its employees (especially those not involved in the cooking process), or might implement other reasonable measures to ensure that the recipes are held in confidence. Additionally, restaurants with secret recipes will usually have inventory and vendor lists that reveal each ingredient used in the restaurant’s recipes, as well as the identity of each vendor who sells the ingredients (and the prices for which the ingredients are sold). Someone with the requisite culinary skills might choose to take (or, perhaps more appropriately, “steal”) the restaurant’s inventory and vendor lists; decode the restaurant’s unique recipes, vendors, and price points; and open a competing restaurant that serves the same food, causing economic harm to the owner of the recipe.
As you can see, the threat of stolen trade secrets can pose an economic risk to almost any type business. Whether you’re seeking to proactively identify your business’s trade secrets or to recover damages for (or the return of) trade secrets that have already been stolen, contact a Fort Lauderdale trade secret lawyer at (954) 440-0901 to assist you with protecting your trade secrets and proprietary information. The Carlin Law Firm, PLLC regularly represents employers and businesses with prosecuting and defending theft of trade secret claims in both state and federal courts.