Trade secrets in a private LinkedIn group: IL case questions protectability

Posted on 08-03-2015 by
Tags: Trending News & Topics , intellectual property

In today’s social media-driven society, information is more accessible leaving many to question how protected some online information. Take for instance information in private LinkedIn groups. This idea of information within such group was brought to reality in the case  CDM Media USA, Inc. v. Simms . According to Trade Secret Law, here is how the case was ruled and a breakdown of why it was ruled that way and what should be taken away from the ruling.

Case & Legal Standards of Illinois Trade Secrets Act

The plaintiff (CDM Media USA) created a private LinkedIn group for CIOs and other IT executives interested in company events. Robert Simms ( defendant) served as the the point person of the group during his time at CDM. When Simms resigned from CDM, he allegedly not only refused to return the group’s membership list and communications to CDM but later used the materials to compete against the company. He would try to solicit CDM’s current and potential customers and vendors. CDM filed a suit alleging a violation of the Illinois Trade Secrets Act.

By filing a claim under the Illinois Trade Secrets Act, the plaintiff is alleging the:

(1)    Existence of a trade secret

(2)    Misappropriation of the trade secret

(3)    Trade Secret was used in the defendant’s business

A trade secret according to the act is information that:

(1)    Is sufficiently secret to derive economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use

(2)    Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy or confidentiality

Court Ruling

Denied: Motion to dismiss stating there was too little known about the contents, etc. of the group at the present stage of litigation to rule on the issue as a matter of law, without further factual inquiry.

Granted: Motion to dismiss regarding the “confidential information” contained in the group stating CDM’s blanket allegations, i.e., that the LinkedIn group contained confidential information, were insufficient

The court said that the plaintiff must allege “certain messages or classes of messages contain trade secrets and what it is about the messages that satisfy the trade secrets definition.”

So what does this mean for future cases?

How protectable membership lists of private social media groups are under Illinois trade secret law will depend on the privacy/confidentiality measures employed to protect the information and the information economic value from its’ secrecy.

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