In Seyfarth’s seventh installment in its 2018 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Andrew Boutros and John Schleppenbach focused on criminal liability for trade secret theft, including four key statutes, key elements for criminal prosecution, civil RICO under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and best practices for avoiding misappropriation and for handling misappropriation when it occurs.
As a conclusion to this well-received webinar, we compiled a summary of takeaways:
- The theft of trade secrets is not only a civil violation — it is also a criminal act subject to serious fines and imprisonment. In an ever-increasing technological age where a company’s crown jewels can be downloaded onto a thumb drive, victims and corporate violators must be mindful of the growing role that law enforcement plays in this active area. And, in doing so, working with experienced counsel is critical to interfacing with law enforcement (especially depending on which side of the “v.” you are on), while still maintaining control of the civil litigation.
- With the advent of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, intellectual capital owners have a powerful new tool to both protect assets with as well potentially defend against. As such, processes must be in place to carefully screen new employees as well as provide vigilance over exiting employees so that one can guard against theft and be prepared to address purported theft brought to ones doorstep with a new hire. Finally, it is important to review and update agreements with the latest in suggested and required language to maximize protections that is best accomplished through annual reviews of local and federal statutes with one’s counsel.
- “Protect your own home” by putting tools in place before a trade secret misappropriation occurs. This includes taking a look at your employment agreements to make sure they are updated to comply with the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and that they have been signed. In addition, make sure you have agreements in place with third parties (e.g., clients, vendors, contractors, suppliers) to protect your proprietary information. Finally, secure your network and facilities by distributing materials on a need-to-know basis: Don’t let your entire workforce have access.