What To Do If Someone Steals Your Business Invention or Idea: How Can I Protect My Business Trade Secrets In Georgia? This is a question clients oftentimes ask us.
While many business lawsuits involve disputes between businesses against businesses, there are also actions for which individuals can bring against other persons or businesses in Georgia. Today's post will discuss how to recover under The Georgia Trade Secrets Act upon someone misappropriating or stealing your trade secret for his or her improper gain.
The Georgia Trade Secrets Act
Small business owners can obtain relief for the actual or threatened misappropriation or theft of secret information, including, but not limited to, a pattern, drawing, techniques or product plans that derive actual economic value or the potential for economic value from not being generally known to, and not readily ascertainable by proper means by, other people. O.C.G.A. § 10-1-761(4). Reasonable efforts to maintain such information's secrecy must have been made to have an actionable claim. O.C.G.A. § 10-1-761(4); Smith v. Mid-State Nurses, Inc., 261 Ga. 208, 403 S.E.2d 789 (1991). See also, Avnet, Inc. v. Wyle Laboratories, Inc., 263 Ga. 615, 617 (1993) ("Even in the absence of an express agreement, it is an implied term of an employment contract that an employee will not divulge a trade secret learned by virtue of his employment to a competitor of his former employer.") (citation omitted).
Small business owners do not have to suffer financial harm before taking action against a person or business misappropriating their secret information for commercial advantage. O.C.G.A. § 10-1-762. Instead, you can ask the court to order an injunction to eliminate the commercial advantage of those using or threatening to your business idea by improper means. O.C.G.A. § 10-1-762(a). If successful, the court may compel the other party to cease using the information or may condition future use upon payment of a royalty in certain circumstances. O.C.G.A. § 10-1-762.
In addition to injunctive relief, a person is entitled to monetary damages for misappropriation. Damages can include both the actual loss caused by the misappropriation and the unjust enrichment caused by the misappropriation that is not taken into account in actual loss. O.C.G.A. § 10-1-763(a). The jury can consider evidence of the monetary value in an owner's secret information and the fact that the unjustly enriched party realized a gain from the misappropriation of such information when calculating the amount of monetary damages. White v. Arthur Enterprises, Inc., 219 Ga.App. 124 (Ga. Ct. App.) (1995).
While Georgia law provides that a continuing misappropriation by any person constitutes a single claim against that person, the Code allows for separate claims to be made against each person who receives a trade secret from another person who misappropriated that trade secret. O.C.G.A. § 10-1-766.
Have you ever felt like someone has stolen your business idea? Has a competitor used your secret information to drive you out of business or to a financial breaking point? If you think your trade secret has been or is about to be misappropriated or stolen by another, you should seek advice from an attorney at Betts & Associates who will discuss with you over the phone or in person whether you have been cheated out of your rightful earnings from use of your secret information.