The answer to this question is awkward. A memorized customer list is a trade secret if it is a trade secret. Confused yet?
In 2008, the Ohio Supreme Court addressed whether memorized lists are trade secrets, and it determined that they are if the lists qualify as trade secrets under the statutory guidelines codified in the Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“OUTSA”) under R.C. 1333.61 (D). Al Minor & Associates, Inc. v. Martin, 881 N.E.2d 850, 117 Ohio St.3d 58, 2008-Ohio-292 (Ohio 2008). Thus, like all customer lists, memorized lists must generate economic value from the general public not knowing the lists, and employers must make reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy of the lists.
In Al Minor, the Ohio Supreme Court noted that nothing in the OUTSA distinguishes between tangible and intangible forms of protected information. The Court concluded that a customer list should not lose trade secret protection merely because a former employee memorized it.
Simply stated, employees do not just leave businesses with trade secrets in their hands. They also leave with trade secrets in their heads.
Matt Miller-Novak, Esq.
Godbey and Associates