Protecting Your Construction Business’ Trade Secrets
In construction, some things are known to everyone. How steel or concrete are used, or how to put things together or wire electricity correctly, are generally known to anyone in the industry. But some things aren’t known to everyone-they’re just known to you. These are the “secret sauces” of your business; the technique, product, method, or systems that make your construction business better than or more effective than the others.
Protecting Your Secrets
Those special unique things are yours and you want to protect them from being stolen, used, or disseminated by your competitors (or from being stolen by former or current employees). To do that, you have to make sure they are recognized by Florida law as trade secrets. And that means that you have to do whatever you can to make sure your trade secrets aren’t stolen.
Just calling something a trade secret doesn’t make it one, rather, Florida law defines what a trade secret actually is. You may have trade secrets that you aren’t even aware of. You don’t have to invent a new product to have a trade secret. As long as the information has economic value—that is, your competitors could use the information to make more money, or compete against you—something can be a trade secret.
Using Good Contracts
But there’s room for interpretation, and In many cases, you can specifically define what a trade secret is by putting it in your contracts or agreements—in other words, by saying that this methodology, or the contents of that document, are trade secrets. If the parties agree that they are trade secrets, then a court is likely to treat them as such.
A contract with the correct language can also allow you to get an immediate injunction against someone who decides to use or distribute your trade secrets illegally.
Knowledge Available to the Public
Your contracts may need to say why something is a trade secret. If you say that your pricing methods are protected, say why. Just bear in mind, that in some cases things that the general public could access, are not a trade secret.
So your list of concrete suppliers, for example, would likely not be a trade secret because anybody can go online or in a trade publication and find concrete suppliers. But if you have spent years determining which suppliers deliver the fastest, cost less, and have the best cement, after lots of trial and error, then that information could be a protected trade secret.
Have You Protected Your Information?
Courts will also look to your behavior and ask whether you have treated something as a trade secret. In fact, the law specifically requires that you take efforts to safeguard information that you are arguing should be protected.
If your contracts say nothing about protecting your trade secrets, and you generally let anybody and everybody access information that’s supposed to be protected, courts are less likely to deem the information protected.
Protect yourself, your construction business, and your information. Call our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954 440-3993 if you have a construction legal problem.