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Don’t Lose Your Trade Secrets When You Have Government Contracts


There are a lot of great things about doing business with the government or being awarded  government contracts. Government contracts can pay a lot of money, and they can be for large projects. Barring any kind of dispute, you know the government is paying—they won’t be going out of business, or telling you they just don’t have the funds to pay right now.

But there can also be some things that you need to think about when you’re doing business with the government—particularly the exposure of your business’ trade secrets.

Public Records Laws

Remember that almost every state, and particularly Florida, with its “Government in the Sunshine” laws, makes government records open to the public, pursuant to any public records request. And while the government can shield some information from disclosure, it cannot and generally will not shield your company’s trade secrets from disclosure, if they happen to be included in the documents requested under a public records request.

And no, the government will not agree to any proposal or contract you put in front of them, preventing disclosure—they can’t agree to that, by law.

And there is a lot of information that could be included in those requests, which could be obtained by, or at least seen by, your competitors. The amount you charge, your policies and procedures—generally, any piece of information you put into the government contract.

And it’s not just the contract—even your correspondence, like texts or emails, to a government actor or agency, can be had through a public records request.

Stopping Disclosure

Think you can get a judge to stop your private information from being included in a public records request? You may be successful, although there are difficulties.

The first problem is that you may not even know when a request is being made. The public records request goes to the government, and the government, if and when it complies, is giving whatever it has. The government normally doesn’t have to tell you it’s gotten a public records request, or get your advance permission or even let you review what the government intends to produce.

The second problem is that Florida’s public records laws are powerful—and they may be more powerful than your company’s trade secrets, according to a judge. A judge may feel if you chose to do business with the government, and reap those benefits, you also knew what you were doing, exposing information to the public.

The moral of the story is to be careful what you say, to the extent that you can do so. And if you do find out that the government has gotten a request for records that concern you, file your protective order with a  court, as quickly as you can.

Doing business with the government? Let us help, and protect, your business. Call our Fort Lauderdale business lawyers at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954-440-3993 today for help.




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