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Can a Company Pursue Litigation Based on Theft of Trade Secrets?

Posted on in Business Law

Oakland Park Business Law AttorneyWhen operating a business, owners and partners will want to take whatever steps are necessary to protect their financial interests. In many cases, this means maintaining certain types of trade secrets that will allow them to provide value to their customers and remain competitive in the marketplace. Unfortunately, there are many situations where these trade secrets may be stolen or misappropriated and used by a company’s competitors to gain an unfair advantage. In these cases, a company may be able to pursue litigation against the parties who have stolen or trafficked in trade secrets and engaged in anti-competitive practices, while also ensuring that this information can remain confidential.

Defense of Trade Secrets in Florida

For companies in Florida, the state’s Trade Secrets Act provides a number of protections against the misappropriation or misuse of trade secrets. A company may pursue litigation against a person or company that disclosed or acquired a trade secret through methods such as theft or bribery, as well as methods of espionage such as hacking into protected computer systems or illegally accessing a company’s premises. In addition to taking legal action against a person who stole a trade secret, such as a former employee, a company may pursue litigation against another company that acquired a trade secret that they knew or had reason to know was stolen or obtained without their express consent.

The statute of limitations for litigation involving misappropriation of trade secrets is three years. A company must pursue litigation within three years after discovering that trade secrets were misappropriated or within three years after a misappropriation should have been discovered through the exercise of reasonable diligence. During litigation, a company will need to prove that actual or potential value can be derived from the trade secrets in question and that it took reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy. A company may seek remedies including:

  • Injunctive relief - The court may issue an injunction forcing the defendant to cease any actual or threatened disclosure or use of the plaintiff’s trade secrets. This injunction may remain in effect for as long as a trade secret continues to exist, and in some cases, for an additional period that would be necessary to ensure that the defendant cannot gain an unfair advantage from the misappropriation. If necessary, the defendant may be allowed to use the plaintiff’s trade secrets while paying royalties to the plaintiff during the time when the use of the trade secrets could have been prohibited.

  • Monetary damages - The defendant may be required to repay the plaintiff for any financial losses that occurred because of the misappropriation of trade secrets, as well as any unjust financial gains that resulted from the misappropriation. In some cases, a defendant may be required to pay a reasonable royalty for the unauthorized use of trade secrets. If a misappropriation was “willful and malicious,” the defendant may be required to pay exemplary damages, and these may be up to double the amount of any other damages that were awarded.

In addition to being subject to a court’s orders in business litigation, a defendant may face criminal charges for the misappropriation of trade secrets. Theft of trade secrets is a third-degree felony. Trafficking in trade secrets, which applies when a person uses trade secrets that they knew or should have known were obtained without authorization, is a second-degree felony.

Contact Our Oakland Park Business Litigation Lawyers

If you believe that your company’s trade secrets have been stolen, The Elliot Legal Group, P.A. can advise you of your options for pursuing litigation, and we will provide you with representation to ensure that this issue is addressed correctly. Contact our Sunrise, FL business litigation attorneys at 754-332-2101 to set up a confidential consultation today.


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