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Are trade secrets protected in Georgia?

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Alex B. Kaufman - Business Litigation - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Alex B. Kaufman

Located in Atlanta, GAKaufman & Forman, P.C.

Atlanta, GA
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If you started a business, your trade secrets, including formulas, designs, customer lists and more, are a crucial part of your success. Naturally, you want to keep them as private as possible. It is essential to understand what the law says about your options regarding the misappropriation of trade secrets.

A trade secret can be anything that helps your business thrive, with a few important qualifications. It must be valuable, and you must make efforts to keep it secret, in order to prove that it is a trade secret and not just business practice.

Georgia law, notably the Trade Secrets Act, protects trade secrets in several unique ways:

1. A contract is not required to prevent employees from sharing trade secrets.

Before the passage of this act, and in many other places, employers must have employees sign a document saying they will not share or use trade secrets for their gain. The Trade Secrets Act said this was unnecessary. Now, it is assumed that employees must keep trade secrets confidential. However, you will never go wrong by having your employees sign such a document.

2. According to the statute, if your trade secrets have been misappropriated, you can get attorneys’ fees paid by the defendant.

Including attorneys’ fees in the statute shows that the state is serious about protecting trade secrets. It is rare, especially in Georgia, to have attorneys’ fees paid as a part of the verdict. However, this benefit is not exclusive to the plaintiff. If a misappropriation claim is made in bad faith, the plaintiff may have to pay for the defendant’s fees.

3. There is a five-year statute of limitations.

Georgia’s statute of limitations is longer than many states’ statutes of limitations. Generally, there is a three-year limit. Georgia’s five-year limit allows you to pursue a case any time up to five years after the discovery of the misappropriation of trade secrets.

Protect your trade secrets without giving them away

Bringing a lawsuit for the misappropriation of trade secrets can be tricky, not just because of the legal aspects, but because court proceedings are a matter of public record. Part of a trade secrets lawsuit may require the outlining of those trade secrets. However, there are ways to protect your trade secrets and pursue justice against those who have misappropriated them, without revealing your trade secrets. It requires care and skill on the part of your attorney, and prompt attention on your part.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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