Prospect List Not a Trade Secret

The Atwood Agency v. Black, Supreme Court of South Carolina, 2007

April 1, 2008

You know how valuable your prospect list is, but you may not have a legal leg to stand on if a competitor gets hold of it.

At least that was the decision of South Carolina’s Supreme Court. In the case, a broker charged misappropriation of trade secrets when a property manager left the company and allegedly took a list of vacation home owners and renters with her to a competitor. A trial court agreed that the list was a trade secret and placed an injunction on the second brokerage company, prohibiting it from contacting anyone on the list.

The state Supreme Court reversed the decision. It found that the list did have economic value—one of the requirements for being classified a trade secret under state law. However, stated the court, the information contained in the list was available through other sources, such as public records, and therefore was not entitled to injunctive relief.

According to NAR’s legal department, state courts have come down on both sides of the trade secrets issue.