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Federal computer law doesn’t cover misuse of trade secrets

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) doesn’t grant employers any legal recourse if an employee misuses information obtained from company computers, according to a recent Minnesota Federal District Court ruling.

The case involved architecture firm Walsh Bishops Asso­­ciates and three of its former employees. Management claimed that after they resigned, the three former employees used proprietary information taken from Walsh Bishops. The firm said those actions violated the CFAA.

The federal judge in the case ruled that only information obtained by “intentionally accessing the computer without authorization or by exceeding authorized access” violated the law. Since the three had authorization to access the information in question, they did not violate the CFAA.

Advice: Protect your intellectual property by carefully crafting a noncompete agreement that addresses what employees may and may not do with proprietary information after they leave. Have your attorney write these agreements.

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