May 2012

Using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to Remedy Misappropriation of Information by a Defecting Employee

Steven D. Gordon
When defecting employees take trade secret, confidential or proprietary information to a competitor, the former employer may pursue a claim for violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA") as well as for misappropriation of trade secrets. Although the CFAA is primarily a criminal statute, it also provides a civil remedy for the wrongful use of a computer, including accessing a computer without authority or exceeding authorized access and thereby obtaining information. As one federal court noted: "Employers … are increasingly taking advantage of the CFAA's civil remedies to sue former employees and their new companies who seek a competitive edge through wrongful use of information from the former employer's computer system."

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