Georgia’s Trade Secrets Act prohibits knowing misappropriation of trade secrets. See Ga. Code Ann. § 10-1-761. In a recent decision, the Eleventh Circuit briefly examined this principle in affirming a district court’s grant of dismissal and concluded that the Complaint must set forth facts from which the court could infer that any misappropriation of trade secrets was knowing. Southern Nuclear Operating Co., Inc. v. Electronic Data Systems Corp., 2008 WL 1700204 (11th Cir. Apr. 14, 2008).
Southern Nuclear Operating Company had retained Electronic Data Systems (“EDS”) to provide computer and software services. Southern Nuclear eventually terminated that agreement and hired Computer Technologies Solutions, Inc., (“CTS”) to perform the same functions. EDS requested that Southern Nuclear return EDS’s products and documentation or certify their destruction. Southern Nuclear never did so, and so EDS filed an action against Southern Nuclear and CTS for misappropriation of its trade secrets.
The only issue on appeal was whether the district court had erred in granting dismissal on the grounds that EDS did not allege that CTS knew or should have known at the time it was hired that it had misappropriated trade secrets of EDS. The court of appeals agreed with the district court and affirmed the dismissal in a very brief opinion because there was “nothing in the Complaint that provides facts from which the court could infer that CTS knew or should have known that it had misappropriated trade secrets of EDS.”
Nonetheless, service providers such as CTS should still be conscious of trade secrets issues when they enter into new agreements to provide services or products, ensuring that information used by the client and made available to the service provider is not a competitors’ trade secrets, particularly if there is some reason to suspect that the information may be protected.