February 13, 2019
UNDERSTAND YOUR TRADE SECRETS CLAIM
Trade secrets come in a variety of forms. Some businesses may not even realize they have a trade secret until someone misappropriates it. Protecting your business’s trade secret may involve consulting with a lawyer before any misappropriation occurs and properly framing claims for relief to a court after someone misappropriates a trade secret.
A Florida federal court recently considered a case involving the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets. In that case, the plaintiffs alleged they entered into a shrimp farming agreement with one of the defendants. The plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that at least one of the defendants was not entitled to maintain ownership over the shrimp broodstock and sell them on the open market. The plaintiffs asserted claims for conversion, trade secret misappropriation under the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“FUTSA”), unfair competition under Florida common law, violation of the Florida Deceptive Trade Practices Act, unjust enrichment, and more. The defendants argued that at least some of the plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by the plaintiffs’ claim under the FUTSA. The court found that the plaintiffs’ claims for conversion and unjust enrichment were preempted by the FUTSA claim. The court found (1) there was no material distinction between the conversion and the FUTSA claim and that (2) the FUTSA preempts all non-contract claims – like the claim for unjust enrichment – that are based on misappropriation of trade secrets. However, the court denied the defendants’ request as to the claims for unfair competition under Florida common law and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices claim. The court found those claims are materially distinct from the FUTSA claim.