Proprietary information is a valuable intellectual property right that can be the lifeblood of a business because it allows that business to differentiate their products or services from competing companies. When someone steals or otherwise uses proprietary information without permission, the company can suffer substantial financial harm. Experienced San Diego trade secret lawyers know that this information, also known as “trade secrets,” must be protected against misappropriation. San Diego IP lawyers also know that businesses must act fast when their trade secrets have been stolen or disclosed because every day that goes by without legal action can make it more difficult to undo the damage.
The legal team at Tauler Smith LLP understands both federal and state trade secret laws, and we routinely represent business clients in trade secret lawsuits. Contact us now to explore your legal options.
Legal Protection for Trade Secrets in San Diego, CA
There are two main statutes that explicitly protect California businesses against the misappropriation of trade secrets:
The Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act
The federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DSTA) gives businesses and individuals the right to file a civil suit when their trade secrets have been stolen, disclosed, or used without permission. One of the requirements for bringing a trade secret claim under federal law is that the confidential information is connected to products or services that are used in interstate commerce or internationally. DTSA claims must be filed in United States District Court, which means that San Diego DTSA lawsuits are typically heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
The California Uniform Trade Secrets Act
Another option for business owners in trade secret cases is to file under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA). The CUTSA is a state-specific version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), which has been adopted by most states. Cal. Civil Code Section 3426 stipulates that companies are entitled to legal protections for their proprietary information when that information has value to others. When an ex-employee steals that information, or when a competing company acquires and attempts to use that information, California’s trade secrets law allows the business owner to file a lawsuit in state court.
How Are “Trade Secrets” Defined Under California Law?
Trade secrets are defined as a type of intellectual property, but there are important differences between trade secrets and other forms of IP. The most meaningful difference is that trade secrets are never disclosed to the public. (E.g., the Coca-Cola formula.) This is not always true for copyrights, which often involve registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. Nor is it true for trademarks and patents that are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Additionally, formulas, recipes, computer software, client lists, and other unregistered trade secrets are not subject to expiration dates.
The CUTSA defines a trade secret as any information that:
- Is not known by others outside the company.
- Is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.
- Cannot be easily acquired by others.
- Has independent economic value because it is not known by others.
Proving a Trade Secret Violation in California
The plaintiff in a California trade secret case must prove two elements: (1) that the information at issue qualifies as a trade secret, and (2) that the defendant misappropriated the information. This second element can be met by showing that the defendant did any of the following:
- Acquired the trade secret. If someone who is not supposed to have access to the confidential information acquires it, this may constitute trade secret misappropriation. Examples of this would include an employee who steals company documents, or a competing company that buys the information from a disgruntled former employee.
- Disclosed the trade secret. Disclosing a trade secret is a violation of the CUTSA, even if the disclosure was unintentional. A common example of this would be an ex-employee who has knowledge of proprietary information and then reveals it to their new employer.
- Used the trade secret. Sometimes, an employee leaves their current company and takes confidential client information with them. If that former employee uses that information to solicit clients for a new company, it may be a violation of California trade secret law.
Remedies in San Diego Trade Secret Cases
A positive outcome to your San Diego trade secret case would likely involve the court imposing an injunction against the defendant and awarding you damages. Injunctions and monetary damages are some of the remedies available in trade secret actions, and the court will decide which remedies are most appropriate for your case. For instance, a defendant who is using your trade secrets to boost their own products in the marketplace may be ordered to stop using the information due to a permanent injunction. At the same time, the defendant could also be ordered to pay financial compensation if they have already earned profits from their use of the confidential information, or if you have already lost revenues because of their misappropriation.
Other trade secret remedies could include actual monetary damages for unjust enrichment, as well as punitive damages in cases where the defendant’s actions were willful and malicious. The defendant may also be ordered to pay the plaintiff’s legal expenses, including attorney’s fees.
Tauler Smith LLP Helps San Diego Companies Protect Their Confidential Information
Tauler Smith LLP is a California law firm that helps San Diego businesses protect their trade secrets through proactive confidentiality agreements and, if necessary, civil lawsuits filed in state or federal court. Our skilled litigators have represented cable companies, software publishers, pharmaceutical companies, and other businesses in trade secret cases. We will make sure that you file your trade secret claim in a timely manner and avoid being barred from recovery by the statute of limitations, and we will also act quickly to secure an injunction that stops the defendant from continuing to use your trade secrets.
Have You Been Accused of Trade Secret Misappropriation?
Not all trade secret claims are filed in good faith. The unfortunate reality is that some plaintiffs bring legal action with little or no basis, and they are simply looking for leverage to force the defendant into a quick cash settlement. Defending against accusations of trade secret misappropriation typically requires the assistance of a skilled attorney. The San Diego trade secret lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP know how to combat these kinds of lawsuits. We also know what is needed to stop more earnest allegations of trade secret misappropriation, whether that involves your former employer trying to get an injunction issued against you for allegedly violating a non-solicitation agreement, or an unjustified award of monetary damages for allegedly using another company’s confidential information. We will defend you throughout the legal process and aggressively protect your rights.
About San Diego, California
San Diego is the largest city in San Diego County, with a population approaching 1.4 million people. The median age of residents is 35.6, with more than 25% of city residents being under the age of 20 and just 11% being over the age of 65. Additionally, millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 account for more than 27% of the city’s population, which is one of the highest percentages for any major city in the United States.
A popular destination for visitors to San Diego is Seaport Village, a shopping center on the waterfront. The San Diego Convention Center is also located in the downtown area’s Marina district. Additionally, the local economy receives a boost from the presence of several major corporations, with San Diego being home to prominent wireless companies like LG Electronics, Nokia, and Qualcomm.
Free Consultation with a San Diego Trade Secret Attorney
Are you a business owner whose competitive advantage in the marketplace hinges on proprietary information? Then it is extremely important that you take steps to protect your trade secrets against theft or use by others. The San Diego trade secret attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP represent businesses and individuals in intellectual property lawsuits, including trade secret claims. Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free consultation about your case.