The ability to keep certain proprietary information secret is essential to the well-being of many businesses. Much of those assets’ inherent economic value may derive from the fact that they are not readily known or available to the broader business community. When your business’s secret information gets stolen, co-opted or otherwise misappropriated, the economic loss for your business can be massive. Be sure to fight back promptly and aggressively. Start by retaining the services of an experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorney.
When someone misappropriates your trade secrets and you have to sue, there are several evidentiary hurdles you have to clear in Florida. A recent case from right here in South Florida offers a good illustration of that.
The plaintiff was a Coral Springs-based company that provided “cruise ship entertainment production solutions,” according to its website. Along the way, the entertainment company had created a “proprietary training system and a digital tracking system used in aerial acrobatics entertainment aboard cruise ships.”
The defendant was a Miami-based cruise line that had done business with the entertainment company, and had signed confidentiality agreements regarding the entertainment company’s training and tracking systems, but allegedly misappropriated its knowledge of the systems to establish a business of its own that would compete with the plaintiff.
The entertainment company sued for trade secret misappropriation. In Florida, you have to prove three essential elements to win a claim for trade secret misappropriation. First, you have to establish that you “possessed secret information.” Second, you have to show that you took “reasonable steps” to protect that information’s privacy. Third, you have to demonstrate that your secret information “was misappropriated, either by one who knew or had reason to know that the secret was improperly obtained or by one who used improper means to obtain it.”
Secrecy safeguarded by both password protection and confidentiality agreements
The Third District Court of Appeal concluded that this entertainment company had sufficient proof of each of these things. It had evidence that it owned secret information related to a valuable training system and digital tracking system. The entertainment company properly proved the information was, in fact, secretive (and was reasonably protected) in two ways. The proof showed that the entertainment company shielded it from undesired disclosure through (1) password protection and (2) the entertainment company’s use of confidentiality agreements.
Because the entertainment company had evidence that the cruise line signed one of those confidentiality agreements, that meant it had proof that the cruise knew about the information’s secret nature but nevertheless allegedly misappropriated the systems in order to establish its own competing business. The entertainment company had evidence asserting that the cruise line used “similar language to advertise to actors who do not need prior acrobatic experience,” used photos from the plaintiff’s shows to market its new show and set up its training and rehearsal studio in a very similar way to the manner in which the plaintiff had set up its studio.
Another critical hurdle you must clear in your trade secret misappropriation claim – and that this entertainment company successfully cleared – is to describe your trade secrets with “sufficient or reasonable particularity.” The entertainment company described the systems in its court papers as (1) a digital tracking system that managed the operation and function of equipment that was used in its acrobatic shows that was proprietary in nature and (2) a training system that would allow the user to hire dancers instead of acrobats and then train those dancers to perform acrobatic work in a fraction of time and without compromising safety.
That, according to the court, was enough detail and specificity to meet the legal requirement of reasonable particularity.
Trade secret misappropriation claims can be very complex and intricate matters and these cases may involve millions of dollars in damages. Make sure you have the right legal representation from the start. Reach out to the skilled South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman, where our diligent attorneys have the knowledge and experience to deliver the results you deserve.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.