Q: Are client lists still trade secrets if there is no written employment agreement that says so? Can you use the list?
In New York, a trade secret has three parts: (1) information (2) economic value from not being generally known by others, and (3) reasonable efforts have been taken to protect the trade secret. In New York, courts look at six factors to determine if information should be considered a trade secret:
The value of the information to your business and your competitors
Whether the information is known outside of your business
Whether the information is known only to your employees and people in your business
The amount of money you have spent in developing the information
The difficulty for others to get or create the information
The actions you have taken to guard the secrecy of the information.
Just because you don’t have an NDA, doesn’t mean a court wouldn’t order an injunction for misappropriating a confidential client list, and possibly order disgorgement of the profits you made using the list. It seems that by involving the former firm’s IT manager you are actually making things worse for yourself: it can be used to show you are taking very serious efforts to obtain this information dishonestly. Have an attorney review and evaluate your situation before engaging on a potentially very costly mistake.
Cesar Mejia Duenas agrees with this answer
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