From time to time key employees may leave to go to work for a competitor. Absent a covenant against competition a former employee cannot be precluded from utilizing contacts and expertise gained during his former employment, soliciting his former clients or directly competing with his former employer. Covenants against competition, or non-competes, are enforceable under Florida law provided they contain reasonable time and distance limitations.
An employee is precluded, however, from using misappropriated trade secrets. Florida law defines a trade secret as information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
To maintain a claim based upon the alleged misappropriation of a trade secret, the employer must present more than generalized statements or conclusions but must instead establish the existence of a legitimate business interest and that the employer took steps to protect the purported trade secret. A customer list is entitled to trade secret protection only if the list is the product of great expense or effort, is a distillation of a larger list or includes information not available from public sources.