Outten & Golden attorneys are experienced with advising employees on compliance with trade secret laws. Trade secrets are business-related information that is valuable and secret. Employees may be obligated to protect their employers’ trade secrets even if they have not signed confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements. To determine whether information is a trade secret courts weigh multiple factors, including:
- the extent to which the information is known outside of the business;
- the extent to which it is known by employees and others involved in the business;
- measures the business took to keep the information secret;
- the value of the information to the business and its competitors;
- the amount of effort or money the business expended in developing the information; and
- the ease or difficulty with which others could properly acquire or duplicate the information.
Employers may try to sue current or former employees for misappropriating trade secrets. Possible penalties for misappropriation include, but are not limited to, the payment of damages and injunctions against using the trade secrets. Such penalties, along with the cost of litigation, can harm an employee in numerous ways, such as preventing her from starting a business or working for another company, or damaging her reputation.
Employees may also face claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) if the circumstances of accessing the protected trade secrets involved unauthorized use of company computers. An employer may bring CFAA claims against an employee as unlawful retaliation for engaging in protected conduct, in which case the targeted employee may be able to recover damages from the employer.