In a federal court case pending in Illinois, Stevens v. Interactive Financial Advisors, Inc., Case No. 11 C 2223 (N.D. Ill., Feb. 24, 2015) (Kennelly, J.), the judge determined that it could be possible for a business to misappropriate trade secrets of an independent contractor.

Stevens, a licensed insurance broker, had an affiliation with Interactive Financial Advisors, Inc. Stevens uploaded investment client and insurance client information to the database of Redtail Technology, Inc., a company used by Interactive. When Interactive terminated its affiliation with Stevens, it reassigned Stevens’ clients to other Interactive advisors. Interactive also directed Redtail to block Stevens’ access to the Redtail database upon Stevens’ termination.

Ultimately, the judge denied Interactive’s motion for summary judgment on Stevens’ claim for misappropriation of trade secrets and conversion as to the insurance clients — leaving these claims for the jury to decide. This case shows that businesses that use independent contractors should be clear as to the ownership and permissible use of information.