Trade Secrets Act May Impact Agriculture

Kelly MarshallData, Government

IceMillerBig Data is a hot topic, especially among precision growers.  The opportunity to share data on your own terms is getting a lot of attention and now even Congress is getting in on it with the Defend Trade Secrets Act.

Data from agriculture business can be considered a “trade secret” of a business because it adds intangible value to the bottom line.  Like intellectual property rights, trade secrets can be protected against thieves.  Unlike a patent, trademark or copyright, however, a trade secret has no set time period for protection.  It is a secret until it isn’t.

On April 4, 2016, the United States Senate unanimously approved the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which would amend the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 to create a federal right of action for trade secret theft. The proposed legislation would authorize a private civil suit in federal court for the theft or unlawful public disclosure of a trade secret that is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce. The proposed legislation seeks to do the following: (1) create a uniform standard for trade secret misappropriation by expanding the 1996 Act; (2) extend the statute of limitations on trade secret actions from the current 3 years in most states to 5 years; (3) provide parties with opportunities to stop the theft from continuing and obtain enhanced money damages (triple damages instead of the typical double damages available under state law now) to account for the significant economic harm to the trade secret owners caused by the disclosure or theft; and (4) create remedies for trade secret misappropriation similar to those in place for other forms of intellectual property. The Defend Trade Secrets Act will not preempt state laws, so trade secret owners can choose whether to proceed under state law in state court or to use the new Defend Trade Secrets Act in federal court.

The bill is expected to pass the House and signed into law soon.

You can read the full report from Ice Miller’s Food and Agribusiness Group on their website.