Trade Secrets Law in New York

Note: This page covers information specific to New York. See the Trade Secrets overview for more general information.

New York has not adopted a version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), which is discussed in the Basics of a Trade Secret Claim. In fact, New York does not have a statute governing trade secrets law. Instead, it is based solely on the common law, which is the compilation of prior court decisions in the state. Like the UTSA, however, New York law creates civil liability for "misappropriation" of someone else's trade secret(s). New York's criminal larceny statute may also impose criminal liability for stealing trade secrets.

Definitions

New York courts have adopted the definition of trade secret from Section 757 of the Restatement of Torts: "A trade secret consists of a formula, process, device, or compilation which one uses in his business and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it." The Restatement of Torts explains further that a trade secret differs from other secret information in a business in that it is not simply information about single or ephemeral events, but rather a process or device for continuous use in the operation of the business. From a practical perspective, this definition of "trade secret" is similar to that discussed in Basics of a Trade Secret Claim. New York courts have adopted the definition of trade secret from Section 757 of the Restatement of Torts.

Under New York law, misappropriation consists of use or disclosure of a trade secret that was acquired through a relationship of trust (such as employment), or through fraud or other improper means, such as theft, bribery, or hacking. This definition appears to include publishing a trade secret while knowing that your source obtained it through improper means or in breach of a confidentiality agreement.

Remedies

If a court finds that a defendant has misappropriated a plaintiff's trade secret(s), it may impose the following penalties and remedies:

  • Injunctive Relief: A court may order a defendant to stop violating the plaintiff's rights and to take steps to preserve the secrecy of the plaintiff's information. 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. Punitive damages are available in exceptional circumstances.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for a trade secret claim in New York is three years.

 

Last updated on May 6th, 2008

   
 
Copyright 2007-13 Digital Media Law Project and respective authors. Except where otherwise noted,
content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License: Details.
Use of this site is pursuant to our Terms of Use and Privacy Notice.