The laws regarding the protection of trade secrets in Minnesota are complex and constantly evolving. Whether you are an employee or an employer, Bryan R. Battina can assist you with trade secrets protection and litigation. Knowledge is power, and understanding the scope and limitation of trade secrets laws is an important part of being able to successfully assert or defend a trade secrets claim.
When an employer derives economic value from keeping certain information a secret from its competitors and takes reasonable steps to keep this information confidential, this information becomes a “trade secret.” Depending on the circumstances, the term “trade secret” might encompass any of the following:
When an employee or former employee improperly uses or discloses an employer’s trade secret, an employer may assert legal claims against the offending employee. Mr. Battina is familiar with all aspects of trade secrets law, including:
Minnesota Uniform Trade Secrets Act
Defend Trade Secrets Act
misappropriation of trade secrets
non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)
protection of customer lists
temporary restraining orders (TROs)
Specifically, in Minnesota, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 325C.01-325C.08 (1982) allows for the protection of certain types of information through an action for misappropriation. Misappropriation is defined as improper acquisition, disclosure, or use of a “trade secret.” Minn. Stat. § 325C.01, subd. 3. Courts typically agree that trade secrets lie somewhere on a continuum from what is generally known in a field to what has some degree of uniqueness. Jostens, Inc. v. National Computer Systems, 318 N.W.2d 691, 698 (Minn.1982).
In any action for misappropriation of trade secrets, it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove that trade secrets in fact existed; that such trade secrets had been acquired by the defendant as a result of a confidential relationship; and that defendant have used and or disclosed such secrets. Eutectic Welding Alloys Corp. v. West, 281 Minn. 13, 160 N.W.2d 566 (Minn. 1968). However, without a proven trade secret, there can be no action for misappropriation, even if a defendants’ actions were wrongful. Jostens 318 N.W.2d at 701. Further, the trade secrets at issue must be identified with some level of specificity and mere variations in general practices known in the field, which embody no superior advances, are not protectable trade secrets.
To be a protectable trade secret, the information must: (1) not be generally known or readily ascertainable, (2) provide a competitive advantage, (3) have been developed at plaintiff’s expense, and (4) be the subject of plaintiff’s intent to keep it confidential. Electro-Craft Corp. v. Controlled Motion, Inc., 332 N.W.2d 890, 898 (Minn.1983). The party asserting misappropriation must establish each factor to sustain its claim.