In a unanimous decision debunking the common misunderstanding that former employees can use information they retain through memory (as opposed to information contained in materials pilfered from former employers) without violating trade secret law, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a company’s confidential customer list is a protected trade secret even if a former employee accesses it strictly from memory.
In Al Minor & Assoc., Inc. v. Martin, 2008-Ohio-292, Martin, a pension analyst, signed neither a non-competition nor a non-solicitation agreement during his employment with Al Minor. When he resigned to establish a competing business, Martin contacted and successfully solicited 15 clients using information that he memorized while working for Al Minor. Al Minor sued Martin for misappropriating its trade secret client information. Following trial, Martin was ordered to pay nearly $26,000 in damages to Al Minor, representing lost earnings from former clients successfully solicited by Martin. Although Martin appealed, the Franklin County Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision. Martin then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court where his arguments in support of his actions were once more rejected.