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Employee's LinkedIn Contacts Once Again Become Focus of Trade Secrets Claim

Written by Jennifer Rubin

Following up on the piece I wrote with Jim Ninivaggi, “Whose LinkedIn Profile is it Anyway,” the information contained in an employee’s LinkedIn contacts were discussed in the context of trade secrets in a recent California Federal District Court case, Cellular Accessories for Less, Inc. v. Trinitas.

The former employee charged with the misappropriation of trade secrets – including information that was also published on LinkedIn -- argued that he hadn’t purloined confidential or trade secret information regarding customers on behalf of his new employer because it was LinkedIn that suggested the names of customers the former employee should contact once he started his new job. So how could the former employee be charged with using secret information if a national social media provider published that information? In fact, the former employee argued, LinkedIn not only published information about those customers, the employee said that his former employer encouraged him to maintain his own profile and actively connect with others through the popular social media platform. If these profiles were readily viewed by other LinkedIn members, how could they be confidential? The Court declined to take judicial notice as to LinkedIn’s functionality (after all, some LinkedIn members opt to keep information private or viewable only to those they select), and instead found that issues of fact regarding the extent to which the former employee’s LinkedIn contacts were made public and whether that was done with the employer’s explicit or implicit permission, precluded summary judgment in the employer’s favor on the trade secrets claim.

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