Note: This page covers information specific to Georgia. See the Trade Secrets overview for more general information.
The Georgia Trade Secrets Act of 1990 ("GUTSA") is located at title 10, chapter 1, article 27 of the Georgia Code. GUTSA is largely identical to the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. For generally applicable information on trade secrets claims and defenses, see Basics of a Trade Secret Claim and Publishing Trade Secrets.
Like the Uniform Trade Secret Act, GUTSA prohibits "misappropriation" of trade secrets and provides certain remedies. In addition, Florida law may impose criminal penalties for stealing trade secrets. See [Ga. Code § 16-8-13] (link is to entire code; you need to click through to title 16, chapter, 8, article 1, and then choose the specific provision).
Ga. Code § 10-1-761 (link is to entire code; you need to click through to title 10, chapter, 1, article 27, and then choose the specific provision) defines the key terms of GUTSA:
(1) "Improper means" includes theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a confidential relationship or other duty to maintain secrecy or limit use, or espionage through electronic or other means. Reverse engineering of a trade secret not acquired by misappropriation or independent development shall not be considered improper means.
(2) "Misappropriation" means:
- (A) Acquisition of a trade secret of another by a person who knows or has reason to know that the trade secret was acquired by improper means; or
- (B) Disclosure or use of a trade secret of another without express or implied consent by a person who:
- (i) Used improper means to acquire knowledge of a trade secret;
- (ii) At the time of disclosure or use, knew or had reason to know that knowledge of the trade secret was:
- (I) Derived from or through a person who had utilized improper means to acquire it;
- (II) Acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use; or
- (III) Derived from or through a person who owed a duty to the person seeking relief to maintain its secrecy or limit its use; or
- (iii) Before a material change of position, knew or had reason to know that it was a trade secret and that knowledge of it had been acquired by accident or mistake.
(3) "Person" means a natural person, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, association, joint venture, government, governmental subdivision or agency, or any other for profit or not for profit legal or commercial entity.
(4) "Trade secret" means information, without regard to form, including, but not limited to, technical or nontechnical data, a formula, a pattern, a compilation, a program, a device, a method, a technique, a drawing, a process, financial data, financial plans, product plans, or a list of actual or potential customers or suppliers which is not commonly known by or available to the public and which information:
- (A) Derives 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
- (B) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
For generally applicable information on how a trade secrets claim works, see Basics of a Trade Secret Claim.
If the court finds that a defendant has misappropriated a plaintiff's trade secret(s), it may impose the following remedies:
- Injunctive Relief: GUTSA empowers a court to order a defendant to stop violating the plaintiff's rights and to take steps to preserve the secrecy of the plaintiff's information. See Ga. Code § 10-1-762 (link is to entire code; you need to click through to title 10, chapter, 1, article 27, and then choose the specific provision). Most importantly, this means that a court has the authority, as far as the law of trade secrets goes, to order you to stop publishing someone's trade secrets if it finds that your publication amounts to misappropriation. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may limit the court's ability to do so, however. For details, see Publishing Trade Secrets.
- Damages: A court can make a defendant pay money damages to the plaintiff for the economic harm suffered as a result of a trade secret violation. This may include the plaintiff's losses resulting from the misappropriation and the defendant's profits derived from it. If the court determines that the defendant acted willfully or maliciously, it may award the plaintiff punitive damages in an amount up to twice its actual damages. See Ga. Code § 10-1-763 (link is to entire code; you need to click through to title 10, chapter, 1, article 27, and then choose the specific provision).
- Attorneys' Fees: If a plaintiff sues and wins, the court may award attorneys' fees if it finds that the defendant acted willfully or maliciously. On the other hand, if the defendant wins, the court may award attorneys' fees if it finds that the plaintiff acted in bad faith when filing the lawsuit. The court may also award attorneys' fees if a motion to terminate an injunction is made or resisted in bad faith. See Ga. Code § 10-1-764 (link is to entire code; you need to click through to title 10, chapter, 1, article 27, and then choose the specific provision).
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a trade secret claim in Georgia is five years. See Ga. Code § 10-1-766 (link is to entire code; you need to click through to title 10, chapter, 1, article 27, and then choose the specific provision).