Maine Lobstermen are trying to keep the government’s claws off their Trade Secrets


Trade secrets are everywhere – even in your lobster roll (or “lobstah” if you’re from New England).

Who would have guessed a lobster trap would catch trade secrets!

The State of Maine is requiring federally registered lobster boats to use devices that track the position of the boats 24/7. The state says that the tracking data will allow them to better monitor the fisheries and track interactions with whales. Interestingly, the regulations require operating the tracking units even when the lobster boat is being used for other purposes or just staying stationary in the water.

Five lobstermen sued the state agency in Maine’s district court. The plaintiffs argue that the trip routes and placement of lobster traps have significant economic value and have been closely guarded over generations.

They further allege violation of fourth and fourteenth amendment, violation of privacy, and that the state does not provide any assurance that the information will be protected.

It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit progresses. The three part test for a trade secrets seems to apply to the locations of lobster traps – is not generally known, has value by virtue of being secret, and the owner has taken reasonable measures to protect it. This case is further interesting because it is a government agency requesting the trade secret information, and not a rival company misappropriating the information.

Further Reading:

Lobster photo by Daniel Norris on UnSplash

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