Originally Posted by InsCommentary
The author of this article is perhaps the country's foremost authority, as a consultant and expert witness, on agency customer "piracy." We're not talking about stealing a customer list, we're talking about contacting customers we have a relationship with to see if they will transfer their business. That isn't remotely comparable to stealing office equipment, not does it involve illegally taking intellectual property in the form of customer lists. According to the author. But, that's why I said to talk to an attorney or expert in this area.
If that's the guy you went to church with for 20 years before you signed up with the agency, maybe. If that's a lead they gave you or that you generated during the time you work working with them, that's a byproduct of that work and could absolutely be considered a trade secret.
Regardless of what qualifications that author does or does not have, the law is incredibly clear and it much more becomes a question of facts.
It's very much like stealing office furniture except the only difference is it's an intangible property. Theft is theft is theft. Again, it's question of facts. Did the customer(s) in question have a relationship before the agent/agency relationship? Was it a lead provided by the agency? Did the agency provide compensation or guidance on how to generate the leads? Was the agency affiliation a reason why trust was established?
Here is another law firm, from Virginia, stating that customer lists are trade secrets:
Virginia courts have found the following types of information to be
Customer lists, pricing information, marketing and sales
techniques and product information (MicroStrategy, Inc. v. Bus.
Objects, S.A., 331 F. Supp. 2d 396 (E.D. Va. 2004)). For more
information on trade secret protection of customer lists, see
Question 7: Customer Lists Can Be Protected As Trade Secrets
The issue at hand is most likely misappropriation of trade secrets.
A long time ago I was warning people about robocalls and got heat for it. Imagine my utter lack of surprise at this: This is Why You Dont Mess with the FCC 82 Million Dollar Fine
If any agent wants to take "their" customers with them when they leave, odds are the agency isn't going to fight it over a few here and there, but I wouldn't risk it. If an agent was competent enough to build a book of business once, they can do it again; no sense in clinging to the past when you can be working on building a future.