Skip to Content

Insights & News

Suing for the Misappropriation of Trade Secrets

Business and Commercial Disputes By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2021/01/15 at 03:28pm

Work With a Skilled Alexandria Commercial Litigation Lawyer  

Trade secrets form a critical part of many business’ intellectual property portfolios, from “secret recipes” in the food industry to un-patentable design processes in product manufacturing.  As such, the misappropriation (in other words, the “theft”) of those trade secrets can put a business in a vulnerable position — after all, much of its competitive advantage in the marketplace may be based on the trade secret.

If you have a trade secret misappropriated by a competitor, then you may be entitled to sue and potentially stop the defendant from taking any further steps with the trade secret — you may also be entitled to significant damages to cover your losses.

Let’s take a closer look at how a trade secret misappropriation claim works.

Elements of a Misappropriation Claim

To effectively sue for misappropriation of a trade secret, you’ll have to show that:

  • The defendant acquired the trade secret through improper means, or
  • The defendant disclosed the trade secret to others (knowing that the information was acquired through improper means).

The difficulty in many trade secret misappropriation claims is in proving that the information at issue actually qualifies as a trade secret (i.e., the information was subject to reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy) and establishing that the defendant actually secured the trade secret information through improper means.

For example, if the defendant discovered your restaurant’s “secret recipe” just from experimentation in their test kitchen, then that would not qualify as an act of misappropriation, as they simply reverse-engineered the recipe.

If the defendant engaged in improper means, however (theft, fraud, espionage, etc.) to get that information, they could be sued for misappropriation.  For example, if the defendant paid off one of your employees to break their non-disclosure agreement and give them the “secret recipe,” that would qualify as misappropriation.

Recovery Options

Under trade secret misappropriation law, plaintiffs may seek injunctive relief — what does this mean?  Essentially, plaintiffs may request that the court order the defendant to stop promulgating/using the trade secret and to take steps to maintain its secrecy on behalf of the plaintiff.

Further, plaintiffs may request damages to cover their losses.  These damages may include their own losses, as well as the profits made by the defendant, thanks to the misappropriation of the trade secret.

Contact an Alexandria Commercial Litigation Lawyer for Legal Assistance

Harvey & Binnall, PLLC is a boutique commercial litigation firm based out of Alexandria, VA, and representing clients throughout the DC metro region.  We regularly advocate for clients in challenging commercial disputes, including business tort situations such as the misappropriation of trade secrets.

If you’d like to speak to an experienced Alexandria commercial litigation lawyer at Harvey & Binnall, we encourage you to call us at (703) 888-1943 or send us a message online to request a consultation at your earliest convenience.