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What is the inevitable disclosure doctrine?

On Behalf of | Mar 24, 2023 | Business Disputes

The inevitable disclosure doctrine is a legal concept used in trade secrets and employment law. This doctrine comes into play when an employee with knowledge of a company’s trade secrets leaves their job and takes up a similar position with a competitor. 

The inevitable disclosure doctrine posits that the employee will inevitably disclose or use the former employer’s trade secrets, even if inadvertently, in their new role. As a result, the former employer may seek an injunction or other legal remedies to prevent the employee from working for the competitor to protect its trade secrets.

Why is inevitable the disclosure doctrine important?

The rationale behind the inevitable disclosure doctrine is to balance the protection of a company’s confidential information and trade secrets with an individual’s right to seek employment and further their career. 

  • The existence of trade secrets: The company must show that the information in question is valuable, not publicly known, and has been subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.
  • The employee’s knowledge and access: The company must prove that the employee had access to and knowledge of trade secrets during their employment.
  • The risk of disclosure: The company must establish that the new position the employee has taken with the competitor is so similar to their former position that the use or disclosure of trade secrets is inevitable.

The inevitable disclosure doctrine remains a controversial concept, as it can potentially restrict an individual’s ability to change jobs, even in the absence of a non-compete agreement. The interests of both parties and factors such as the nature of the trade secrets, the similarity of the job roles and the employee’s intent determine when the concept is viable. Working with someone who can help you determine this is important.