More Federal Protection for Trade Secrets!
May 19, 2016
Many companies are applauding the enactment of a bill signed by President Obama on May 11, 2016, called the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016. This Act provides the victims of trade secret thefts the right to sue civilly in federal courts. This Act is in addition to the existing federal law that makes it a crime to steal intellectual property and the existing state laws that allow trade secret owners the right to sue in state courts. The justification for adoption of this law is partly that while criminal prosecution may be enough deterrent for some potential trade secret thieves, with limited FBI resources to investigate and prosecute, many trade secret thefts go unprosecuted and potential trade secret thieves are emboldened by the lack of prosecution. Another purpose of this Act is to create uniformity throughout the nation in regard to trade secret protection.
The definition of “trade secret” under the Act (abbreviated for purposes of this article) is “all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information … whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing if: (1) the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and (2) the information drives independent economic value…”
Most companies have trade secrets. Whether it be the recipe for a secret sauce, the way they manufacture a specific product, or customer lists, the ability to protect trade secrets is fundamental to protecting what is commonly one of the company’s most important assets.
The new ability to bring a civil suit in federal court for theft of trade secrets does not preempt a party’s ability to sue under the existing state trade secret laws. Instead, the aggrieved party will have the right to sue civilly in either court (assuming that there is otherwise proper jurisdictional grounds). Both the Act and Washington State trade secret laws require that an action for trade secret theft take place within three years of the date of discovery (or when discovery should have occurred).
At Pacific NorthWest Law Group we help our clients protect what is most important to them. We can assist you with all types of intellectual property protection. This includes protection of trade secrets. We invite you to contact Pacific NorthWest Law Group today to arrange an appointment for one of our attorneys to explain how Pacific NorthWest Law Group can help you protect what matters most.