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Accused of trade secret theft?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2021 | Trade Secrets

You recently left your job to start a new position with a different company or to pursue your own interests. Things were going fine until you got word that your former employer is accusing you of trade secret theft. In California, and elsewhere, this is a big deal and not an issue you can brush under the rug. What might happen to you if your former employer’s claims have merit? 

According to the Legal Information Institute through Cornell Law School, the consequences if found guilty of trade secret theft can be significant for you and, if applicable, your new employer. Before getting into the potential consequences, though, let’s go over what a trade secret is and what constitutes trade secret theft. 

What it is 

A trade secret is any information a person or company wishes to keep private. However, calling something a trade secret does not make it one. The person or company has to act in a way that shows they are working diligently to keep that information from getting out — such as having employees sign non-disclosure agreements or only allowing certain individuals access to the secret, among other things. 

According to U.S. legal code, the theft of trade secrets occurs when a person or company knowingly and without authorization: 

  • Takes 
  • Copies 
  • Communicates 
  • Receives 
  • Buys 
  • Steals 
  • Conspires to do any of the above 

The list can go on, but you get the idea. If you take or use your former employer’s trade secrets without authorization, you may face criminal and civil consequences for trade secret theft.  

The potential consequences 

The potential consequences for trade secret theft are steep. They include years in prison and hefty fines. The fines vary but can be up to three times the trade secrets value or $5,000,000.  

What you can do if accused of trade secret theft 

The actions you take following accusations of trade secret theft can affect you for the rest of your life. Be careful, think things through and seek help. With the right person in your corner, you may be able to fight the accusations and achieve a case dismissal; you and your attorney may also be able to work with prosecuting attorneys to achieve the best outcome possible. Either way, your legal counsel will work diligently to help you settle the matter in a way that suits your best interests.  

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