Given the difficulty of protecting intellectual property related to cannabis and cannabis-based products with patents, copyrights and trademarks, any company in the cannabis industry should formulate a trade secrets protection plan from the very outset of the business, in order to ensure that the proprietary information at the center of its business does not lose its confidential status down the road.
If an employment agreement entered after May 11, 2016, does not contain an immunity notice, employer can sue an employee for trade secrets misappropriation, but will not be able to recover its attorneys fees or obtain an award of punitive damages.
Since trade secrets are not registered with the government, like patents or trademarks, companies must take proactive measures to preserve them. Those who fail to take reasonable measures, risk finding out down the road (usually in court, when the try to recover stolen trade secrets from a rogue employee) that their information has lost its trade secrets status.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that: (1) a party must “prevail” before it can recover any attorney’s fees under the Defend Trade Secrets Act and (2) a plaintiff’s dismissal of its claims without prejudice does not confer the “prevailing party” status on defendants.
Every business should take at least the following steps to protect its trade secrets: (1) have employees sign non-competition / non-solicitation and confidentiality agreements and (2) turn on proper security features on all document management systems and databases, such as Google Share Drive, Microsoft 365, Dropbox, etc., and any databases used by the business.
Trade secrets only have value as long as they stay secret, so once they come into a competitor’s hands or become publicly available, their value is often destroyed.