Victims of trade secret theft often can seek a variety of civil and criminal remedies against those who have absconded with proprietary information. The Ninth Circuit however recently rejected criminal charges in a situation where the claims could be addressed as a civil matter under California’s trade secret laws.
In United States v. Nosal, David Nosal was sued by his former employer, the Korn/Ferry executive search and placement firm. After leaving Korn/Ferry, Mr. Nosal contacted several former colleagues who were still working with the company and asked them for assistance with his efforts to set up a competing business. Mr. Nosal’s former co-workers had access to a significant amount of proprietary information on the Korn/Ferry computer system, and assisted Mr. Nosal by using this access in order to provide names, contact information, and other confidential data from Korn/Ferry’s proprietary database to Mr. Nosal. Although their access to the database was authorized, the employees provided information to Mr. Nosal in violation of a trade secret and nondisclosure agreement with their employer.
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