Monday, January 16, 2006, 1/16/2006 11:23:00 AM

Trade Secrets Protection for an RFP? (Pacer Req’d)

A recent case from the Southern District of Ohio, Curcio Webb LLC v. National Benefit Programs Agency, Inc., deals with the issue of trade secrets protection for an unlikely classification of material, an RFP. The case concerned competing employee benefits consultants. The plaintiff submitted its RFP’s to numerous providers with both a confidentiality provision and a copyright notice. The RFP at issue fell into the hands of its competitor, the defendant, which then used it as the basis of an RFP it later prepared.

Plaintiff brought a complaint on multiple grounds including copyright infringement, false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, misappropriation of trade secrets under the Ohio Act and under the common law, and unfair competition and misappropriation of proprietary and confidential business information under the Lanham Act and the common law.

With regard to trade secrets, the court ruled first that the common law trade secrets claim was preempted by the Ohio act. The court next refused to grant summary judgment for either party on the statutory trade secrets claim. Concerning plaintiff’s contentions, the court held that the claim that the RFP derived independent economic value from the RFP was not backed up by sufficient evidence at the summary judgment phase to prove that fact successfully.

In addition, the Court identified a factual issue as to whether Plaintiff made reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of its RFP. The question of whether the provisions in the RFP, and specifically the language restricting a recipient-provider's use and disclosure of the document, constituted a valid unilateral contract could not be resolved at the summary judgment stage.

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