Session Might Bring Updated Trade Secret Process
The insurance industry should stay tuned in the 2018 session for potential updates to Florida’s trade secret laws. Insurers are familiar with Section 624.4213, which creates a process for protecting information submitted to the Office of Insurance Regulation or the Florida Department of Financial Services. Although the current law has been helpful in creating a well-defined process, it has led to some ambiguities. For example, insurers sometimes question how they should protect information to be submitted to organizations other than OIR and DFS, such as the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.
Looking at this issue more broadly, Florida law contains numerous references to protecting trade secrets across a variety of agencies and organizations. These laws are not uniform in their definitions or processes. That would change under two bills being advanced by the House of Representatives.
House Bill 459 would repeal references to protecting trade secrets throughout Florida statutes. This would include repealing 624.4213 relating to the insurance industry. In its place, House Bill 461 would create a uniform process for submitting trade secrets to agencies. The process generally will appear familiar to insurers, but it is slightly different than the existing provision in the insurance code. The basic premise remains, however, that an insurer would be able to submit a notice with information it considers to constitute trade secrets. The insurer also would remain obligated to mark each record, or part of a record, as “trade secret.” Failure to provide the notice would result in a waiver of the trade secret claim. Additionally, if an interested party requests trade secret material held by an agency, the bills would codify the process by which the agency would notify the party providing the records and that party would be obligated to seek protection in the circuit court if it intends to maintain the protection.
By their nature, trade secret submissions include sensitive information that insurers want to protect from public disclosure. Insurers should monitor the pending bills in the current session to make sure they update their processes if the legislature adopts a more uniform approach across Florida agencies.