Florida law permits a business to seek an injunction when its trade secrets have been misappropriated. This can be a deceptively complex process for companies that are not familiar with trade secret law. To prevail on a motion for a temporary injunction, a plaintiff must not only show that what was taken qualifies as a trade secret, but that the circumstances meets all of the elements necessary to prevail on a temporary injunction. The failure to prove one element of trade secret misappropriation or the failure to justify an injunction can result in the denial of a temporary injunction. A recent case before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal explored the necessary elements that must be met before a business is entitled to a temporary injunction. Peter Mavrick is a Miami business litigation lawyer, and also represents clients in business litigation in Miami, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. The Mavrick Law Firm represents clients in trade secret litigation, non-compete agreement litigation, breach of contract litigation, trademark infringement litigation, and other legal disputes in federal and state courts and in arbitration.
A plaintiff seeking a temporary injunction to protect its trade secrets must show that there is an actual or likely misappropriation of trade secrets and that the circumstances justify the entry of a temporary injunction. To show a misappropriation of a trade secret under the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (FUTSA), a business litigation plaintiff must show that another party acquired or disclosed a “trade secret” and that the party “knew or had reason to know” that the it was taken under improper means. § 688.002(2), Florida Statutes. The legal term “trade secret” is defined as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that [d]erives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and [i]s the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.” § 688.002(4), Florida Statues. To justify a temporary injunction, a plaintiff must show that “(1) irreparable harm will result if the temporary injunction is not entered; (2) an adequate remedy at law is unavailable; (3) there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; and (4) entry of the temporary injunction will serve the public interest.” Donoho v. Allen-Rosner, 254 So. 3d 472 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018).
In Mapei Corp. v. J.M. Field Mktg., Inc, 295 So. 3d 1193 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020), Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal evaluated whether a temporary injunction was properly entered in business litigation concerning alleged trade secrets involving a business method. The plaintiff was a full-service fulfillment and marketing firm. The defendant was a chemical company that entered into an agreement with the plaintiff which involved access to a web-based inventory management software program. Included in this agreement were confidentiality provisions concerning disclosure of the plaintiff’s software. The defendant became unsatisfied with the plaintiff and requested that another vendor provide similar services. To make sure that the services provided were the same, the defendant accessed and “scraped” the data from the plaintiff. The vendor thereafter emulated plaintiff’s services for defendant.
The plaintiff commenced business litigation against the defendant and the vendor for their procurement of the plaintiff’s trade secrets. Particularly, the plaintiff claimed that the method of storing the defendant’s own data was a trade secret. The plaintiff won a temporary injunction at the trial court level requiring that the defendant stop disclosing plaintiff’s trade secrets, but not requiring the defendant to stop exploiting the trade secrets already taken. Both parties appealed. The defendant argued that a temporary injunction should not have been entered because the plaintiff’s purported trade secret was not adequately identified and was not a trade secret because it was comprised of defendant’s own data. The plaintiff argued that the injunction should be preventing defendant from using the trade secrets already taken.
A previous article discussed the consequences for plaintiffs that do not adequately identify their trade secrets in litigation. Maipei recognized and adopted the principle that a plaintiff must properly identify its trade secrets. Maipai found that the plaintiff overcame that burden by showing screen captures that represented a significant reproduction of the matters which the plaintiff claimed were a trade secret.
Maipei also concluded that the confidential information at issue was a trade secret. While a significant portion of the purported trade secrets was comprised of defendant’s data, Maipei explained that the organization of data which is not itself a trade secret may nevertheless qualify as a trade secret if it meets the requirements of § 688.002(4). Penalty Kick Mgmt. v. Coca Cola Co., 318 F.3d 1284 (11th Cir. 2003) (“even if all of the information is publicly available, a unique combination of that information, which adds value to the information, also may qualify as a trade secret”).
Finally, Maipei considered whether the business being conducted between the defendant and the vendor using plaintiff’s trade secrets should have also been enjoined by the trial court. The trial court originally concluded that to enjoin that business would disrupt the status quo rather than preserve it. Maipei reversed the trial court’s temporary injunction and determined that the business litigation defendant and the vendor could still do business together – they simply could not do business using plaintiff’s trade secrets. Maipei reversed the trial court’s temporary injunction and directed the trial court to enter a comprehensive temporary injunction.
The remedy of a temporary injunction is available to Florida businesses that can carefully prepare and present evidence supporting each element under FUTSA and showing that a temporary injunction was justified. As reflected in Maipei, a plaintiff’s burden is substantial but not insurmountable. Peter Mavrick is a Miami business litigation attorney who also practices business litigation in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. This article does not serve as a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation.