Have You Been Charged with Theft of Trade Secrets in Georgia?
Georgia laws about theft charges are confusing and complicated to most people. A charge of theft of trade secrets must be carefully evaluated and investigated by a competent theft of trade secrets attorney in Georgia. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Theft of Trade Secrets Lawyers are familiar with the subtle differences that distinguish each of the theft crimes and can help you build a strong defense. Don't wait because you and your loved one's future depends on it. Call us today and schedule a free consultation.
Georgia Law on Theft of Trade Secrets
O.C.G.A. §16-8-13 states theft of a trade secret has occurred when:
Any person who, with the intent to deprive or withhold from the owner thereof the exclusive use of a trade secret, or with an intent to appropriate a trade secret to his or her own use or to the use of another, does any of the following:
(1) Takes, uses, or discloses such trade secret to an unauthorized person;
(2) Acquires knowledge of such trade secret by deceitful means or artful practice; or
(3) Without authority, makes or causes to be made a copy of an article representing such trade secret
What is a Trade Secret?
As defined by O.C.G.A. §16-8-13(a)(4), trade secret means information, without regard to form, including, but not limited to, technical or nontechnical data, a formula, a pattern, a compilation, a program, a device, a method, a technique, a drawing, a process, financial data, financial plans, product plans, or a list of actual or potential customers or suppliers which is not commonly known by or available to the public and which information:
- Derives 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; and
- Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
Georgia Case Law
In DuCom v. State, a woman was charged and convicted of stealing trade secrets from her real estate broker. DuCom was a licensed real estate agent, and she joined Culver and DeLoach as a salaried employee. When DuCom decided to leave the firm, she copied the master client list from her employer and used it to solicit, retain, transfer, and appropriate the clients. The evidence presented at trial showed that DuCom did not have authority to copy the list and that the list was not available to the public. The record was kept on a private computer that was password protected and accessible only by owners' employees who were under supervision. Furthermore, the list had value to both DuCom and the owners and the list was one from which persons could derive economic benefit if they had access to it. For these reasons, the Court held that there was sufficient evidence to find DuCom guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of theft by taking a trade secret. 288 Ga. App. 555, (2007).
The Penalty for Theft of Trade Secrets in Georgia
As with other theft crimes, whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the money or property stolen. If the value the trade secret is less than $100, then the accused will be charged with misdemeanor theft of trade secrets. The penalty for a misdemeanor charge in Georgia includes a fine of no more than $1,000 and a sentence of no more than 12 months confinement. If the accused receives a jail sentence of six months or less, the judge has the ability and discretion to allow the sentence to be served via weekend confinement or during the defendant's nonworking hours.
On the other hand, if the amount was more than $100, the accused will be facing felony charges. The punishment will include a prison term between one and five years and a fine up to $50,000.
In addition to a prison sentence or fine, there are other consequences of committing theft. The person stolen from could bring a civil action against you for damages. They could sue you and recover monetary damages. The monetary damages could include:
- Compensatory damages which would include the value of the property and any other loss sustained as a result of the theft
- Liquidated exemplary damages amounting to $150 or twice the value of the loss (as long as the total amount is less than $5,000)
- Or the costs of bringing the suit against you
- Restitution damages for any damages or harm that came to the victims because of your actions.
Georgia Defenses to Theft of Trade Secrets
Approval: If the accused had permission to obtain the trade secret, then that would be a complete defense. However, evidence demonstrating consent would be required.
Innocence: If you have an alibi or witness testimony proving that you did not commit the crime, that evidence will be vital to you in court. Your Lawyer will use this evidence to help you receive an acquittal.
Lack of Intent: If you accidentally received trade secrets or mistakenly took them off a computer, that could be a defense. Your Georgia Theft of Trade Secrets Attorney will evaluate this defense along with others to try and prove your innocence or to create doubt in the jury's mind.
No economic value was derived from the information: If the information did not have any economic value, actual or potential, that could be a great defense. However, there would need to be sufficient evidence demonstrating that the evidence did not have any ascertainable value for this to be valid.
Call The Law Offices of Lawson and Berry to speak with one of our Georgia Theft of Trade Secrets Lawyers and schedule a free consultation. Formulating a defense on your own can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Our Attorneys are highly knowledgeable and will assist you in formulating the best possible defense for your case. We will walk you through every step of the process, and we are dedicated to being accessible to you- days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on your behalf. Your Attorney will make sure you understand all of your options and advise you on the best approach to take for your case based on their many years of experience. Don't wait to contact one of our Lawyers. Your future is at stake. Do not sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.