Judge Ross of the United States District for the Eastern District of Missouri recently declined to issue a preliminary injunction in a trade secret misappropriation case, holding that a transportation company did not offer sufficient evidence to show that its customer lists and pricing information were trade secrets under Missouri law. Towne Air Freight, LLC v. Double M. Carriers, Inc., Case no. 4:14-CV-750-JAR (E.D. MO June 9, 2014).
In so ruling, Judge Ross quoted from an earlier case which held that “[c]ustomer lists are protectable as trade secrets only when they represent a selective accumulation of information based on past selling experience, or when considerable time and effort have gone into compiling it.” “Information that can be compiled from other, generally available sources such as names, phone numbers and contact persons, is not protectable as trade secrets.”
With respect to the pricing information at issue, Judge Ross noted that it “could be obtained from other generally available sources” and therefore did not qualify as a trade secret.
This case illustrates that while the Uniform Trade Secrets Act can be a powerful tool for protecting confidential information, its sweep is not as broad as is sometimes assumed. Employers may want to consider using contractual restrictions such as confidentiality agreements and post-employment restrictive covenants to further protect confidential and proprietary information. In addition to providing stand-alone legal protections, such contractual restrictions can also help to bolster a claim under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act by showing that the employer undertook reasonable measures to protect the information at issue (one factor that a court will consider when determining trade secret status) in addition to showing that the information is so sensitive that the employer also chose to protect it contractually.