What Constitutes Misappropriation of a Trade Secret?
In Florida, it is unlawful for employees to reveal certain types of business-related information to others outside of the company. Revealing trade secrets can have serious consequences, including imprisonment and harsh fines, so if you or a loved one have been accused of misappropriating trade secrets, it is vital to contact an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help you formulate a defense.
Trade Secrets Defined
Florida’s definition of trade secrets is quite broad and includes any information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that:
- Derives independent economic value, either actual or potential, from not being known to others who could obtain economic value from its disclosure; and
- Is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.
It is both a federal and a state crime to misappropriate this type of information. Under Florida law, a person misappropriates a trade secret if he or she acquires it, knowing that it was obtained by improper means, which includes theft, bribery, misrepresentation, and the breach of a duty to maintain secrecy. A person can also misappropriate a trade secret by disclosing it to someone else after using improper means to acquire it. Information can also not be disclosed if a person knew or had reason to know that awareness of the trade secret was:
- Derived from or through another person who utilized improper means to obtain it;
- Acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain its secrecy; or
- Obtained from or through a person who owed a duty to maintain its secrecy.
Finally, a person commits misappropriation of trade secrets if he or she disclosed the information without consent, knew that it was a trade secret, and knew that knowledge of it had been acquired by accident.
According to Florida law, a person convicted of stealing a trade secret can be barred from further disclosure by a court order. In certain cases, victims can also seek financial compensation in an amount equal to the loss that they experienced as a result of the theft. However, to obtain any type of relief, a person must bring an action for misappropriation of trade secrets within three years after its discovery.
Disclosing trade secrets is also a crime under federal law, which prohibits stealing, receiving, buying, or possessing a trade secret. A federal conviction is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million. Additionally, an injured party can still sue someone accused of stealing a trade secret, even if the government has already filed criminal charges.
Contact a Dedicated South Florida White Collar Crime Attorney Today
In Florida, a person can be charged with misappropriation of a trade secret even if he or she didn’t know that the information was confidential or had been acquired improperly, so if you live in south Florida and are being investigated for theft of a trade secret, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to set up a free consultation with an experienced attorney who can explain your legal options.