Trade secret misappropriation claims are commonly filed in business litigation by employers against former employees. An employee is precluded from using for his or her own advantage, and to the detriment of a former employer, any trade secrets obtained in the course of prior employment. East v. Aqua Gaming, Inc., 805 So. 2d 932 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001). Where an employee acquires, during the course of his or her employment, a special technique or process developed by his or her employer, the employer is under a duty, even in the absence of an express contractual provision, not to disclose such skills, techniques, or processes for the employee’s own benefit or another’s benefit to the detriment of the former employer. Premier Lab Supply, Inc. v. Chemplex Industries, Inc., 10 So. 3d 202 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009). Peter Mavrick is a Miami business litigation attorney, and represents clients in business litigation in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. The Mavrick Law Firm represents businesses and their owners in breach of contract litigation and related claims of fraud, non-compete agreement litigation, trade secret litigation, trademark infringement litigation, employment litigation, and other legal disputes in federal and state courts and in arbitration.
In cases where there is no restrictive covenant between an employer and its employees, employers can sometimes prohibit former employees from disclosing confidential information under the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“FUTSA”). The lack of a confidentiality agreement does not necessarily defeat an employer’s argument that particular information is trade secret. Premier Lab Supply, Inc. v. Chemplex Industries, Inc., 10 So. 3d 202 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009). FUTSA mirrors the federal Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which also prohibits misappropriation of trade secrets and provides certain remedies. To obtain relief under FUTSA, the employer must prove: “(1) that it possessed a trade secret and took reasonable steps to protect its secrecy; and (2) the trade secret was misappropriated, either by one who knew or had reason to know the trade secret was improperly obtained or who used improper means to obtain it.” Mapei Corp. v. J.M. Field Marketing, Inc., 295 So. 3d 1193 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).
Under FUTSA, “trade secret” is defined as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that: (a) 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 (b) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.” § 688.002, Fla. Stat. To be a trade secret under FUTSA, the information sought to be protected must be secret, and information that is generally known, or is necessarily disclosed upon use by a third party, cannot qualify as a trade secret. In re Maxxim Med. Group, Inc., 434 B.R. 660 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 2010).