We frequently represent employees who, after leaving their employment, are sued for violating their non-compete contract and for illegally using their ex-employer’s “trade secrets.”
Just what are “trade secrets?” Typically they are customer lists, marketing information, unpatented inventions, software, formulas and other business information that provides a company with a business edge. Information is more likely to be deemed a trade secret if it is not known outside of the particular business entity and the business has taken measures to guard the secrecy of the information.
Most of the claims against our clients (ex-employees) for the misappropriation and use of trade secrets is bogus. The information at issue is typically widely known the industry or business at issue and the employer did nothing to protect itself from the disclosure of the information. We prevail in a lot of these cases.
But bad facts are bad facts and I wanted to share a recent report from a case in Virginia in which the ex-employee may be in deep trouble. Atlantic Marine Construction Company, a Virginia Beach construction company, claims a former employee stole trade secrets and provided them to a competitor. The lawsuit alleges the ex-employee, a former vice president in charge of construction, installed “Google Chrome Remote Desktop” on a work computer in February without authorization. He was fired in August for reasons not specified in the suit. Following his termination, the lawsuit alleges the ex-employee accessed Atlantic Marine’s computer network at least 16 times with the help of the installed program. According to the suit, Atlantic Marine believes the ex-employee viewed, copied, and downloaded the company’s trade secrets each time he connected to the network. Among other things, the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk claims violations of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Virginia Computer Crimes Act and the Virginia Uniform Trade Secret Act.
My Take: If Atlantic Marine can prove its allegations that ex-employee is in a world of trouble.