Enriching Life Through Innovative Ideas SM

Protecting trade secrets from whistleblower disclosures

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2020 | Intellectual Property

California companies can suffer substantial harm when their trade secrets are disclosed. One potential party that can disclose trade secrets are whistleblowers. Currently, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) contains a controversial immunity provision that aims to protect whistleblowers who reveal trade secrets. However, there are still some strategies that companies can utilize to further protect their proprietary information from being revealed by such parties.

The first step that a business should take is to strictly limit who has access to their various trade secrets. Businesses should carefully draft policies about access to trade secrets and rigorously enforce them. Furthermore, the DTSA requires businesses to notify their employees about the immunity provision. Thus, business owners should make certain to do so.

When a whistleblower obtains a company’s trade secrets, the company should analyze how it happened. It is important to note how the information was obtained because the DTSA does not protect whistleblowers from liability when the whistleblower utilizes illegal means to obtain trade secrets. The company should also look at how the whistleblower revealed the information. The DTSA requires whistleblowers to first reveal trade secrets to an attorney or law enforcement officer before immunity will apply. The company should try to file a lawsuit in court first, and should also try to secure an injunction to prevent the whistleblower from further disclosures.

Companies that have had their trade secrets misappropriated by whistleblowers might benefit from consulting with experienced intellectual property law attorneys. Depending on the business’ unique circumstances, intellectual property lawyers might analyze what occurred and work to immediately protect their clients’ trade secrets from further disclosures. Furthermore, attorneys might challenge the whistleblowers’ claims of immunity under the DTSA and look at whether the way in which the trade secrets were revealed and to whom. IP attorneys can also potentially help impacted businesses file lawsuits and request injunctions to prevent the trade secrets from further public disclosures if the immunity requirements are inapplicable.