Understanding more about the theft of trade secrets under state law
From scientific data, marketing information and customer lists to business codes, technical blueprints and recipes, there is a host of business information that could properly be classified as “trade secrets.” Indeed, it’s safe to say that businesses assign a great value to this information, so much so that many have their employers execute non-disclosure agreements in order to ensure that this information remains strictly confidential.
What happens, however, when an employee or another individual takes this confidential without securing permission from the employer, meaning they misappropriate trade secrets?
While employees who choose to do this will likely find themselves facing a civil lawsuit under Florida’s version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, they could also find themselves facing serious criminal charges.
Indeed, Florida law dictates that anyone who intentionally deprives or withholds control of a trade secret from its rightful owner, or steals or embezzles an article representing a trade secret, or makes a copy of said article with the intention of either keeping it for themselves or giving it to another is guilty of a third-degree felony.
This means a conviction could result in a maximum fine of $5,000 and, more significantly, up to five years in prison.
In general, state law broadly defines a trade secret as being any commercial, technical or scientific information that is 1) confidential, 2) valuable, 3) used/designed to be used for business purposes, and 4) either advantageous or likely to prove advantageous.
Indeed, it’s important to understand that for the purposes of the statute, it doesn’t matter whether the business information in question is patentable, novel, inventive or especially groundbreaking. Furthermore, it can encompass any whole or portions of formulas, devices, patterns, information, or any combination thereof.
In our next post, we’ll discuss how those who misappropriate trade secrets could also find themselves facing federal criminal charges under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.
If you have been charged for any sort of employment-related theft, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.