Trade Secrets

Article excerpt

Trade secrets. An Ohio appeals court has ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction barring an employee from using his former employer's information in his new job. However, the court ruled that some of the information taken by the employee could not be included in the injunction because the company failed to take sufficient steps to protect it.

John Mazur resigned his position as a salesman with Liebert Corporation at 3:30 p.m. on January 20, 2004. Earlier that day, Mazur had downloaded company price books from the corporate intranet and customer lists and buyer histories via the company's Web site to his personal laptop computer. Mazur began work with Aerico, Liebert's competitor, six days later. Liebert filed for a preliminary injunction against Mazur to prevent him from using the information to benefit his new employer.

At trial, Mazur testified that he had erased the information and had not used any of the data. However, a computer forensics expert testified that the evidence showed that Mazur had copied the Liebert information to a Zip disk on February 5, 2004, and then erased all of the data from the hard drive of his laptop. However, there was no way to prove that Mazur still had the data.

To determine whether the documents Mazur took were legally trade secrets, the court heard testimony from Phillip Barnett, Liebert's director of e-commerce, on the security measures used to protect the information. The price books were available through the company intranet but were password protected. They were not available through the company's public Web site.

In addition, Barnett explained that salespeople needed a unique ID number and password to access the customer lists and buyer histories via the Internet. Passwords were assigned on a need-to-know basis. A confidentiality statement appeared whenever anyone accessed the information online. He also testified that the access codes were changed and the IDs deleted from the system when employees left so that they could not access the information remotely. …