Trade secrets are vital to the operations of businesses in South Carolina. Trade secrets can include information such as plans, formulas, designs, patterns, supplier lists, financial lists, customer lists, computer software, and more. Business owners rely on these trade secrets to give them a competitive edge, and they rely on their employees and others to not disclose these secrets to others.
Trade secrets are protected in South Carolina under the Trade Secrets Act. When a person violates the law as outlined in the Act, individuals who suffer losses as a result can file a lawsuit to recover the damages they sustained. A trade secret lawyer from Beth Santilli Law, LLC in Mt. Pleasant, SC can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
What Constitutes a Trade Secret?
Under the Trade Secrets Act, a trade secret is defined as information that:
– Is confidential
– Is critical to a business maintaining their competitive advantage
– Has had reasonable efforts maintained to ensure its confidentiality
The fact that trade secrets are confidential is critical when pursuing a claim citing a violation of the Trade Secrets Act. For example, the Supreme Court found in the case The Atwood Agency v. Black that the defendant was not in violation of the law because the client list the accused disclosed was already available to the public.
When Does Someone Violate the Trade Secrets Act?
Determining whether someone violated the law when disclosing a trade secret is sometimes challenging. The Trade Secrets Act refers to violations of the law as misappropriations. The Act defines exactly when a misappropriation has occurred.
Acquiring a Trade Secret Through Improper Means
The first type of misappropriation occurs when someone acquires a trade secret through improper means. For example, if a person hacked into a business’s computer system in order to gain access to a secret recipe, that is an example of misappropriation. An employee that took a secret recipe home would also be guilty of misappropriation. It is important to understand that when a person illegally acquires a trade secret, they are in violation of the Trade Secrets Act, even if they did not publish the information.
Acquiring and Publishing a Trade Secret
The second type of misappropriation involves acquiring a trade secret and publishing it, when the person was aware the secret was obtained through improper means. Using the same secret recipe example, an employee may give their friend the recipe, and the friend may publish it onto their food blog. In this instance, both individuals could face a lawsuit for violating the Trade Secrets Act.
In this second type of misappropriation, it is not necessary for the two individuals to know each other. As long as the person that published the information knew, or had reason to know, that the information was confidential, they can still be held liable. For example, if a person received the recipe anonymously in the mail, but the envelope was marked as “Confidential,” they could still face liability if they then publish the information contained within.
Get Legal Help Today
Trade secrets are essential to your business and you have likely gone to great lengths to protect them. If someone has violated the Trade Secrets Act and your business has been hurt as a result, our experienced trade secret lawyers at Beth Santilli Law, LLC are here to help. We know how to prove that someone violated the law, and we will work hard to secure the damages you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help.