This is about the lawsuit where our tenants and we, the landlord, are being sued for misappropriating competing beauty salon's trade secrets (i.e. customer list).
We are about to sign retainer contract with our to-be attorney and will try to get us dismissed on basis that we are merely the other two defendants' landlord and not employer. So don't have anything to do with the alleged theft of trade secrets.
However, to my surprise, the other two defendants went to at least 3 different attorneys and neither was willing to take up the case (I don't know the reason yet - will discuss with them tomorrow). The tenants are young and have limited life experience and are totally at risk of default judgement if they don't take up the case themselves or still can't find attorney. I am willing to help them for free and at least attempt to build some defense by doing the paper work that they would submit under their names (I have an engineering background and I like to take up challenges outside my comfort area).
But this left me wondering - is customer list really a trade secret in California that attorneys are afraid to challenge?
The plaintiff in complaint states that the customer list is a trade secret that was built over years by providing quality services that helped to establish business' reputation and helps to attract new customers and causes existing customers to return while generating stable income for business. Here are my 2 defense arguments that I came up with to at least build defense against the trade secret misappropriation:
- Most hair salons attract new customers based on business' reputation that is readily accessible on public websites, like Yelp or Google. Contrary to secretive tech startups, beauty salon customers after receiving service are explicitly encouraged by the employee or employer to post public, non-anonymous reviews describing their experience without any restrictions. Which implies that customer list can't be a trade secret because there is no effort to hide customer identities.
- Most returning customers are usually seeking their favorite hair stylist. Which means that customer list alone can't be constructed as trade secret. It should be viewed as trade secret only in tandem with their favorite hairstylist that they are explicitly seeking. Which means that the moment their favorite hairstylist leaves the employer the information becomes incomplete and hence can't be a trade secret anymore.
Would, in your opinion, something written like above convince court?