Is A Corporation's Address A Trade Secret?

Allen Matkins
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Allen Matkins

"Cryptocurrency" is a hybrid word form from the Greek adjective, κρυπτός, meaning hidden, and the Latin participle, currens, mean running or flowing.  The word "currency" is also derived from currens, perhaps based on the idea that money flows from one person to the next in an economy.  Literally, cryptocurrency, is secret money.  But there are secrets and there a secrets.

Recently, a cryptocurrency exchange sued one of its employees for violating the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, 18 U.S.C. § 1831-39.  Among other things, the company alleged that the erstwhile employee had disclosed the "physical address" of the company in a complaint filed in a state court action.  Until now, I had never considered that a company's physical address might be a secret.  The company argued that "keeping its physical address secret serves to protect it from 'physical security threats,' providing as an example of such threats 'a recent spate of kidnappings' of persons who work for cryptocurrency exchanges".  Payward, Inc. v. Runyon, U.S. Dist. 

Judge Maxine M. Chesney ruled for the defendant, finding that the plaintiff had failed to allege how its competitors would gain an economic advantage by knowing the company's address.  Accordingly, Judge Chesney found that the plaintiff had not pled that the address met the definition of a trade secret under the DTSA.  

I was somewhat nonplussed by the idea of an office address being a secret (trade or otherwise).  After all, the plaintiff, a Delaware corporation, had filed a Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State disclosing the address of its principal executive office (which is the same as its principal executive office in California).  That filing is a readily accessible public record.  It may be, however, that the address disclosed by the defendant was for another location not disclosed in the Statement of Information.

Etymologists use the term "hybrid word" to refer to a word that is formed by the combination of words from two different languages.  Greek-Latin hybrids are the most common form of hybrids in English.  English does have hybrids formed from other languages.  For example, "chocoholic" is a hybrid formed from New and Old World languages - Nahuatl, xocolatl, and Arabic, اَلْكُحُول (al-kuḥūl).  

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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