Tampa and Hillsborough County are home to a large number of entrepreneurs who want to ensure that their business information is kept confidential. No one wants a list of customers to fall into the hands of a close rival. Yet very few business operators understand the definition of a trade secret or the steps that are necessary to protect this information from competitors. The first step to answering these questions is to visit Florida’s version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
What is a trade secret?
A trade secret is any type of information and includes a “formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process” that derives independent economic value from not being generally known to or readily ascertainable by other persons or businesses. The information must be subject to efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. The essential part of the definition is the requirement that the information derives independent economic value from not being generally known. A company’s list of customers, for example, will have no economic value if the names on the list are widely known in the business. If the names on the list are not generally known, the list can be considered a trade secret.
Many businesses take steps to prevent competitors from learning the names on the customer list, but many also fail to take reasonable steps to preserve the secrecy of the information on the list. That omission can rob crucial business information of its secret nature, and courts will not afford it trade secret protection.
What is the Uniform Trade Secrets Act?
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act is a statute that was drafted the Commission on Uniform State Laws. The statute was adopted by the Florida legislature in 1988 and amended twice since then. The statute provides a uniform definition of “trade secret” and specifies the steps that must be taken by the business owner to ensure the secrecy of the business’ confidential information. The statute also defines the acts that constitute misappropriation of a trade secret and specifies applicable remedies.
The best way to ensure the confidentiality of information that is crucial to the enterprise is to retain an attorney who is familiar with the law of trade secrets and confidential information. A knowledgeable attorney can review a business’ intellectual property and the steps used to protect it. The same attorney can then draft corporate policies that will ensure that the company’s trade secrets are and will remain secret.