Georgia Appellate Court Opens the Door for Trade Secret Misappropriation Suits Against State Entities

Author:Ms Shannon Turner
Profession:Fenwick & West LLP

In Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia v. One Sixty Over Ninety, the Georgia Court of Appeals held recently that a state entity is not immune from trade secret claims brought under the Georgia Trade Secrets Act. The ruling paves the way for courts in other states to deny sovereign immunity in trade secret cases.

One Sixty, a creative services agency that provides branding and strategy services, claims that it shared confidential information with the University of Georgia through recorded webcasts and a written response to UGA's request for proposal for a branding initiative. One Sixty ultimately lost the branding initiative bid to Ologie, LLC, its direct competitor in the higher education community. Despite UGA's assurances that One Sixty's responsive information would remain confidential, a UGA employee allegedly shared One Sixty's recorded presentations and a selection of One Sixty's creative work samples with Ologie, which used this information to compete with One Sixty in other proposals.

One Sixty sued UGA for misappropriation of its trade secrets under the Georgia Trade Secrets Act. UGA moved to dismiss, arguing that One Sixty's trade secret claims were barred by sovereign immunity, which shields the state from suits seeking to recover damages unless immunity is explicitly or implicitly waived. The trial court, however, disagreed and concluded that One Sixty's trade secret claims could move forward against UGA.

Affirming the trial court, the appellate court determined that the language of the Georgia Trade Secrets Act does not...

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