Welcome to Club Fed Jur, Trade Secret

In Intellectual Property by Joe Pull0 Comments

You can now make a federal case out of a lost trade secret. The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, which became law on May 11, 2016, allows businesses and individuals to bring civil lawsuits in federal court for misappropriation of their trade secrets. Previously, an action based on trade secrets had to be based on state law – in Minnesota, the Minnesota Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 325C.[1] This meant that unless the defendant came from out of state, the action most likely had to be litigated in state court.[2] The Defend Trade Secrets Act erases this distinction between trade secrets and their intellectual property kin, patents and copyrights, which long have been included within the federal bailiwick.[3] While the new federal trade secrets law and Minnesota’s statute both derive from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act and are generally quite similar,[4] the federal law contains a potentially powerful provision not found in the state act. 18 U.S. § 1836(b)(2) allows for a court “upon ex parte application but only in extraordinary circumstances, issue an order providing for the seizure of property necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret.” This means that an individual or business who discovers a trade secret has been stolen can ask the court to order seizure of property to prevent the release of the trade secret to others, without having to notify the thief in advance of the court proceedings. If the victim persuades the court that “extraordinary circumstances” apply, the property is to be seized by “a Federal law enforcement officer” and “taken into the custody of the court.”[5] Imagine FBI agents bursting into a business to grab documents that a newly hired employee stole when she left the business’s competitor, her previous employer. While the Minnesota statute …