No Sharing: Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA)

Employers should be sure that they are in compliance with the DTSA

On May 11, 2016, President Obama signed the popular Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which gives employers a federal cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. One of the key features is that the DTSA allows employers to obtain equitable remedies, actual damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees as well as remedies available under state law.

There are a few circumstances where an employee or contractor is immune from prosecution for sharing trade secrets: (1) when disclosing to the government or government attorneys solely for the purpose of reporting or investigated a suspected violation of law; (2) when disclosing to a personal attorney in connection with a retaliation lawsuit for reporting a suspected violation of law; and (3) when disclosing in any complaint or other document filed in a lawsuit, as long as its filed under seal.

The DTSA requires employers to provide notice of these immunities in any agreement with an employee or contractor related to trade secrets or other confidential information. If the employer does not provide this notice, their available damages will be reduced. They will not be entitled to punitive damages or attorney fees, which limits the effectiveness of the agreement.

The good news? This only applies to agreements entered into on or after May 11, 2016. Agreements entered into before then do not have to include the notice provisions. But looking forward, employers should contact their legal counsel to make sure that any agreements they enter into will comply with the DTSA.

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