Trade secret disputes are on the rise, largely due to technological advances. Personal mobile devices, portable electronic storage devices, and cloud storage have made it easier to steal proprietary information. Losses from U.S. trade secrets range from $180 billion to $540 billion per year and can devastate companies of all sizes.
At Jett Law LLC, I’ve helped clients in Cleveland and throughout northeast Ohio litigate trade secret disputes for more than 30 years. These thefts are sometimes difficult to prove and prosecute, which is why having an attorney knowledgeable in this area of law is crucial. I have the experience and resources necessary to garner the best results possible for clients who have suffered damages.
Ohio law (Ohio Rev. Code § 1333.61) defines trade secrets as information, including the whole or any portion or phase of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or improvement, or any business information or plans, financial information, or listing of names, addresses, or telephone numbers, that satisfies both of the following:
It derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use.
It is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
The Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act was enacted to provide legal recourse for companies whose trade secrets were misappropriated by someone else. The statute of limitations is four years after the misappropriation was discovered or four years from the date that the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered.
Ohio courts will deny trade secret protection if a complainant is unable to demonstrate they took measures to protect them. Those measures include:
Locking filing cabinets.
Password protecting computer and digital files.
Clearly marking proprietary documents as “Confidential.”
Restricting widespread access to proprietary information to limit the opportunity for misuse.
Encrypting data and other information.
Restricting employee use of personal mobile devices and portable electronic storage devices.
Requiring employees to sign non-disclosure agreements to hold them legally accountable should they steal trade secrets.
The more steps that were taken to keep the information confidential, the more the courts will recognize that the information was viewed as a trade secret.
Trade secret misappropriation is the acquisition of a trade secret of another by a person who knows or has reason to know that the trade secret was acquired by improper means. It’s also defined as disclosure or use of a trade secret of another without the express or implied consent of the other person by a person who did any of the following:
Used improper means, including theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy, or espionage through electronic or other means, to acquire knowledge of the trade secret;
Knew or had reason to know the trade secret had been improperly acquired;
Before a material change of their position, knew or had reason to know that it was a trade secret acquired by accident or mistake.
Where misappropriation has occurred, the victim has a right to be compensated for damages.
The Ohio Trade Secrets Act provides that a complainant is entitled to recover damages in a civil action for misappropriation. Those damages include actual loss and any unjust enrichment of the defendant above and beyond. Damages can also be awarded based on proof that shows the defendant was responsible for the misappropriation and calculated by reasonable loss of royalties by the complainant, benefit to the defendant, or both.
If there is proof of willful and malicious misappropriation by the defendant, the court can award punitive damages in an amount not exceeding three times the non-exemplary damages.
Litigating trade secret disputes is extremely complex and can be expensive. Your attorney must prove who misappropriated the information, how they used or sold it (and to whom), the value of your damages, and willful or malicious intent. This is not just any attorney’s type of law. It requires one who practices this litigation regularly and has for a period of time. Hiring the wrong lawyer can be expensive and in the end, for naught.
At Jett Law LLC, I have devoted more than 30 years to commercial litigation and business litigation. I have the skills and experience to tenaciously pursue a claim, aggressively litigate it, and advocate for my clients who have been wronged by the failure of someone else to protect the confidentiality of company secrets.
If you have been the victim of trade secret misappropriation, you can fight back. Join the growing number of clients I’ve worked with in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio in pursuing justice against parties who violate the privacy that should have been afforded to your company’s proprietary information. Consultations are free, so call my office today to schedule an appointment.