Different types of intellectual property require specific legal protection, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks. What happens if the value of business information or “know-how” depends on its secrecy?
In this article, you will discover what a Florida trade secret is.
Florida Trade Secret Law- An Introduction
Proposed in 1979 and amended in 1985, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) was the first effort to promulgate a set of standard law principles governing trade secrets for adoption by different states.
Florida decided to adopt the legislation in 1988. Florida Statutes Chapter 688 features the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (FUTSA), a slightly modified version of the federal Act.
What is a Trade Secret in Florida? – As Provided by Law
Florida Statutes §688.002 (4) defines the term “trade secret” as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that:
- 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, and
- Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy”
While the statutory definition provides the foundation for trade secret litigation in Florida, most claims are not brought to courts under the statute. In practice, defining a trade secret requires a detail-oriented approach by courts.
The fundamental elements to determine whether a piece of information is a Florida trade secret are:
- The information must be secret
- The information must have an inherited economic value that derives from its secrecy
- Maintaining the secrecy of the information must require reasonable efforts
Florida Trade Secret Misappropriation
Under Florida Statutes §688.002 (2), trade secret misappropriation means:
- “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, or
- Disclosure or use of a trade secret of another without express or implied consent by a person who used improper means to acquire knowledge of the trade secret, or at the time of disclosure or use, knew or had reason to know that her or his knowledge of the trade secret was:
- Derived from or through a person who had utilized improper means to acquire it
- Acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use
- Derived from or through a person who owed a duty to the person seeking relief to maintain its secrecy or limit its use, or
- Before a material change of her or his position, knew or had reason to know that it was a trade secret and that knowledge of it had been acquired by accident or mistake”
To file a claim for trade secret misappropriation in Florida, the plaintiff has the burden to establish:
- Whether the information is actually a trade secret
- The owner’s exclusive ownership of that information
- The existence of an independent economic value associated with the information
- Whether the economic value of the information is due to the fact it is “not generally known”
- Evidence of the reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of the information