Protecting your Trade Secrets During Government Contracts
Government contracts can be an excellent source of revenue for businesses, but only if you know your way around the procurement process. These contracts, ranging from small purchases to large construction projects, often require bidding. Understanding how the process works is an excellent place to start. To do business with Florida state and local governments, companies need to be aware that the process of bidding on a contract requires transparency… And if that involves trade secrets, it could mean trouble fo your business.
Naturally, this transparency can be hazardous if you have some prime trade secrets. Being wary of the risk is something all businesses should comprehend. Since the government contracts market is so competitive, companies responding to requests for proposals and other solicitations must be able to keep their trade secrets out of their competitors’ hands.
Protecting Your Assets from Disclosure
To protect trade secrets from becoming public, a company bidding for government business or contracting with a government entity must specify which information given to the entity is a trade secret. Government entities tend to agree that trade secrets should be exempt from disclosure under the public records law.
Trade Secrets are a legally protectable asset; however, in the event of a public records request… Neither the company nor the government entity has the last word on what is and isn’t a trade secret—instead, it’s up to the courts. The courts tend to construe both exemptions and interpretations of those exemptions narrowly.
What Does Florida Consider Trade Secrets?
Any formula, pattern, device, or compilation of information that gives a business an advantage over its competitors and is unknown to those competitors can be considered a trade secret. The key to any great enterprise, whether a small business or a multinational corporation, is its ability to keep that information exclusive and safe.
Any information that meets these four criteria, known as the “four pillars of trade secret law,” is considered a trade secret.
To be considered confidential information, the information must meet all of the following requirements: (1) it must be secret; (2) it must have value; (3) it must be used by the business or provide an opportunity for the business to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know about it; and (4) it must provide an opportunity for the business to obtain a competitive advantage.
Courts also look to the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“FUTSA”), which provides civil remedies for misappropriation of trade secrets.
Two critical reasons companies in Florida should be aware of the state’s policy and laws regarding public records. If bidding for government business in Florida, you should be mindful of the state’s public records laws. Those laws give your competitors access to information that may give them a competitive advantage over you. First and foremost, you should be aware that the state’s open-records laws give citizens access to most documents held by government entities.
If this worries you, feel free to contact our experts at Dowd Law. We’d be happy to review your current government contracts or help you determine if such is worth the risk.