Missouri’s Trade Secret Act is a version of what is known as the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”), a statute that has been adopted in one version or another by most other states and the District of Columbia.
The Missouri Trade Secret Act defines “trade secret” as information which may include technical or non-technical data, a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that (a) derives independent 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 (b) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. The Act provides for an injunction against actual or threatened theft or unlawful disclosure of a trade secret. It also provides for an award of damages to one who recovers for theft or unlawful disclosure of a trade secret, and such damages can include actual losses caused by the theft or unlawful disclosure, as well as recovery for the unjust enrichment provided to those who steal or unlawfully disclose the trade secret. Under the statute, these damages may be measured, among other ways, by the imposition of a reasonable royalty. Punitive damages can be awarded where the theft or unlawful disclosure is done with an evil motive or with reckless indifference to the rights of others.
The new Missouri Act also provides that courts shall preserve the secrecy of alleged trade secrets by reasonable means, which might include granting protective orders in connection with discovery proceedings, holding in-camera hearings, sealing records of the case; and ordering persons involved in the litigation not to disclose alleged trade secrets without prior court approval. The statute includes a five year statute of limitations. The Act specifically preserves a plaintiff’s contractual remedies whether or not based on misappropriation of trade secrets, as well as other civil remedies. Criminal remedies are also preserved by the statute.
Notable distinctions between the Missouri Statute and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act include the fact that under the Missouri law it is not required that the trade secret information be used continuously, or in the conduct of one’s business. An individual acting for his or her own benefit enjoys the benefit of the Missouri Statute, even though he or she is not using the information in his or her business. The Missouri Act also modifies the definition of “trade secret” from that which is contained in the UTSA to add that the information can be technical or non-technical. Therefore, the Missouri Act includes non-technical subject matter such as customer lists, compilations of commercial data and computer programs. This is in effect a codification of prior Missouri common law. Unlike either the UTSA language or the provisions contained in other state trade secret statutes, the Missouri statute does not place a limit upon punitive damages awarded in connection with a violation of the statute.