Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act offers little help as a protector of trade secrets


A Minnesota Federal District Court has found that trade secrets protection sought from the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) doesn’t exist in cases involving employee misuses information obtained from company computers.

Walsh Bishops Asso­­ciates, an architecture firm, claimed three of its former employees used proprietary information taken from Walsh Bishops and sought remedy under the CFAA.

The judge ruled that only information obtained by “intentionally accessing the computer without authorization or by exceeding authorized access” violated the law. Since the three had authorization at the time of access the information in question, they did not violate the CFAA.

Presumably, the company can seek remedies under state trade secrets laws, but, once again, valuators should note, there’s not much help at the federal level. Strong non-competes and an in-place, policed trade secrets policy are the best protections.


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