Prewitt Quoted on CFAA Limits Under SCOTUS Ruling


Trade Secrets Practice Group Leader Matthew Prewitt was quoted on the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that may narrow the scope of use of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) by making it more difficult to assert claims against employees who misuse their authorized access to company data to steal trade secrets and confidential information.

The Court’s decision in Van Buren v. United States addressed an employee who used authorized access to a database for an unauthorized purpose. The Court held that, because the employee had authorized access, he had not violated the CFAA, regardless of his motive in accessing the data. Although trade secrets and noncompete attorneys have often relied on the theory the Court rejected, Matt said that the CFAA remains an important remedy for employer even after the Van Buren decision. The key is framing the employee’s conduct as unauthorized access by focusing on the employee’s conduct after authorized access has been terminated.

"An employee who copies a folder of company files to a flash drive is still prohibited from opening the folder post-termination of employment under the CFAA," Matt explained, if the employee’s authorized access to open that folder ends upon termination of employment. “The CFAA remains intact as an important protection for employers' trade secrets against disloyal employees."

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