Category Archives: Misappropriation of Trade Secrets

Quirky Question #283: They Stole Our Stuff, Can We Sue?

Question: My company recently terminated an employee, and we are very worried she accessed her email inappropriately in the days before she was fired. The timing of it all is … well, quirky.

Here’s what happened: The employee’s manager met with her on a Friday and informed her that her performance was not acceptable, even after several earlier warnings to improve.  The manager told the employee to go home early and return to work first thing Monday to meet with the manager and the manager’s supervisor.  The supervisor, manager, and employee met as planned on Monday and the employee was terminated.  Later that day, however, our IT folks reviewed her account and determined she had accessed her email dozens of times on Saturday and Sunday – there are no “sent messages” in her account, so we figure that she was printing off e-mail and maybe contacts because she saw the writing on the wall about the Monday meeting.

Our policies allow employees to access email from home – but we can’t think of any reason why she would have done so over this weekend and IT said she hadn’t logged in from home for at least six months. Needless to say, the timing is very suspicious, and we’re thinking about suing to find out what she did when she logged in.  Can we?

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Quirky Question #281: Deploying the DTSA

Question: We believe our former employee recently stole some of our trade secrets and went to a competitor.  Can we rely on the Defend Trade Secrets Act to bring suit in federal court?

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Quirky Question # 276: Ex-Employees Gone Rogue

Question: Our company uses agreements to try to protect our confidential and proprietary information. One of our former sales employees recently left us to work for a competing company.  We have evidence he took with him our confidential information about our clients and is planning to use it to sell products to our clients for his new employer.  When we reminded him he could not use our confidential information, he said we couldn’t stop him because the information does not qualify as a “trade secret” under our state’s trade secrets laws.  We looked into the issue, and he’s probably right that this information is not necessarily a “trade secret”.  We’re worried there’s nothing we can do to stop him from using our information to steal our clients.  Help?

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Question #273: Crafting a Concrete Non-Compete

Question: Our company uses non-compete and non-solicit agreements that bar former employees from having contact with any client of our company after they leave. One former employee who recently left is now claiming the agreement is invalid because it is “overly broad” in that it bars him from soliciting not only those clients of ours he used to work with, but clients he never had any dealings with.  I can see his point, but at the same time, how are we supposed to know when he signs the agreement which of our clients he will end up working with?

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Question #272: Competing in California

Question: One of our company’s employees recently left to start a competing business. We think he started this process while he was still employed by us, and that he is probably using information he learned from us.  We’re in California, so I know we don’t have a non-compete agreement with him.  Do we have any other recourse?

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Quirky Question # 141, Customer Lists as Trade Secrets

Quirky Question # 141:

One of our sales employees recently left our company.  He now is starting to call on our customers.  It appears that he may have some of our customer lists in his possession.

We do not have any post-employment restrictive covenants, such as a non-compete or a non-solicitation agreement, that would govern his conduct.  But, aren’t customer lists trade secrets that he is precluded from using? Answer→