Legal Blogs

What is the Reasonable Particularity Requirement in California Trade Secrets Cases?

Companies need to be able to keep their proprietary information private. Many businesses have special formulas, recipes, or processes that help to shape their brands and that are instrumental to their success. This proprietary information may all fall under the category of trade secrets. Trade secrets are protected by law as long as relevant legal criteria are met, and when trade secrets are disclosed or there is a threat of disclosure, a trade secrets attorney should be consulted for help. trade secrets attorney

Litigation is a possible remedy both when trade secrets are actually revealed and when there is a risk that these secrets will become public. However, to file a successful lawsuit, you need to ensure you can meet certain legal requirements. One such requirement is called the reasonable particularity requirement. The reasonably particularity requirement can present unique challenges for organizations that wish to pursue a case for trade secret law violations.

Companies need help from an experienced attorney both to understand the requirement and to make sure they can fulfill it. Brown & Charbonneau, LLP understands what is necessary for a plaintiff in a trade secret case to fulfill the reasonable particularity requirement and can assist you in your case. Call today to speak with a trade secrets attorney who can help.

What is the Reasonable Particularity Requirement in California Trade Secrets Cases?

In the state of California, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act codified in California Civil Code Section 3426 sets forth the definition of trade secrets, the definition of misappropriation of secrets, and other relevant regulations governing how trade secrets should be protected and what happens when the secrets are in danger of disclosure.

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act adopted in California was actually based on a model law which has been adopted by 44 states. Each of the states included part or whole of the model Uniform Trade Secrets Act in their state statutes, giving the model law legal effect. While California adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, however, the state is also free to make its own rules applicable only within the local jurisdiction where cases arise.

California has taken advantage of the opportunity to impose its own rules by codifying a reasonable particularity requirement. The requirement was added to California’s trade secrets law after it was first created by the courts in a case called Diodes, Inc. v. Franzen, which pre-dated the state’s adoption of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The reasonable particularity requirement mandates that if a company wants to sue for misuse or misappropriation of trade secrets, it must described the secrets in question with “reasonable particularity” before the case can move forward into the discovery phase where information is exchanged.

Other states also require disclosure of the secrets which were allegedly stolen when a trade secrets case arises, but California’s reasonable particularity requirement is the only rule expressly requiring that the secrets be stated before evidence is disclosed during discovery.

Understanding the Meaning of Reasonable Particularity

In the Diodes Inc. case, the court made clear that a plaintiff in a trade secrets case had to spell out the “subject matter of the trade secret with sufficient particularity to separate it from matters of general knowledge…” The secret information had to be described with enough particularity that the defendant could ascertain “the boundaries within which the secret lies.”

Plaintiffs did not have to spell out so much detail in public filings that the secret was destroyed, but the defendant was also entitled to know, generally, what secrets he was accused of disclosing.

When the Uniform Trade Secrets Act was enacted in California in 1984, the requirements on reasonable particularity from Diodes were codified in California Code of Civil Procedure section 2019.210. It remains in effect to this day, so any plaintiff who wants to file a trade secrets case must provide sufficient details about secrets allegedly stolen in order for a case to move to the discovery phase.

How a Trade Secrets Attorney Helps Fulfill the Reasonable Particularity Requirement

A trade secrets attorney helps companies to protect trade secrets and to understand the precautions that must be taken in order for information to be considered a protectable secret. If your secrets have been breached and are in danger of becoming public or are already publicized, Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can help you to decide if you should pursue litigation.

If you move forward with your case, we will work hard to ensure you can meet the reasonable particularity requirement so you can move forward in seeking a remedy for the misuse of your intellectual property. To learn more and to get help with your trade secrets case in Irvine or surrounding areas in California, call (866)237-8129 or contact us online