Note: This page covers information specific to Ohio. See the Trade Secrets overview for more general information.
The Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act ("OUTSA") is located at chapter 1333 of title 13 of the Ohio Revised Code. OUTSA 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, OUTSA prohibits "misappropriation" of trade secrets and provides certain remedies.
Ohio Rev. Code § 1333.61 defines the key terms of OUTSA:
(A) “Improper means” includes theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy, or espionage through electronic or other means.
(B) “Misappropriation” means any of the following:
- (1) 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;
- (2) Disclosure or use of a trade secret of another without the express or implied consent of the other person by a person who did any of the following:
- (a) Used improper means to acquire knowledge of the trade secret;
- (b) At the time of disclosure or use, knew or had reason to know that the knowledge of the trade secret that the person acquired was derived from or through a person who had utilized improper means to acquire it, was acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use, or was derived from or through a person who owed a duty to the person seeking relief to maintain its secrecy or limit its use;
- (c) Before a material change of their 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.
(C) “Person” has the same meaning as in division (C) of section 1.59 of the Revised Code and includes governmental entities.
(D) “Trade secret” means information, including the whole or any portion or phase of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or improvement, or any business information or plans, financial information, or listing of names, addresses, or telephone numbers, that satisfies both of the following:
- (1) It derives 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.
- (2) It 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: OUTSA 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 Ohio Rev. Code § 1333.62. 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 three times the plaintiff's actual damages. See Ohio Rev. Code § 1333.63.
- 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 attorney's fees if a motion to terminate an injunction is made or resisted in bad faith. See Ohio Rev. Code § 1333.64.