SECRETS SECRETS ARE NOT FUN 150 150 Lauren Ellerman


Do you know that rhyme? Well, it does not apply in Virginia law.

A Trade Secret in Virginia, “means information, including but not limited to, a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that: 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 2. Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.”

Wow, that is a long and complicated definition. In english, it means a Trade Secret is something that 1 person / company has developed, that no one else knows about and that helps them with their business.

Could include pricing list, computer program, client list – really, anything.

So as an employee, you have likely learned some trade secret information. You may have even developed trade secret information. Is it yours to share, use or sell when you leave?

NO. It isn’t.

If you take information from your ex-employer, and use it for personal gain – under Virginia Trade Secret Act, you could be held liable for Damages, which “include both the actual loss caused by misappropriation” or “If willful and malicious misappropriation exists, the court may award punitive damages in an amount not exceeding twice any award made under subsection A of this section, or $350,000 whichever amount is less.”

Is that secret really worth $350,000? Is it worth being in litigation for 1 year?

Is the information really even a secret? Perhaps you should discuss these deeper questions with an attorney who can help you understand Trade Secret Act. Perhaps you owe it to your self to know your options.

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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