California trade secret law, through California Code of Civil Procedure §2019.210, presents a statutory framework unique among state and federal trade secret laws that requires trade secret plaintiffs to identify the misappropriated trade secrets before discovery commences. This requirement serves to deter meritless trade secret actions, define the scope of relevant discovery, and provide notice to defendants so they may fashion their defenses accordingly. Understanding what this provision does—and does not—require is critical for trade secret litigants.

The California appellate courts have provided limited guidance on what constitutes an adequate identification of misappropriated trade secrets. Appellate courts will give trial courts broad discretion in making such determinations, so no precise standard exists by which to measure the sufficiency of a trade secret identification. Because such identifications also naturally include confidential information, pertinent details from prior cases are often kept under seal and hidden from the public, preventing potential litigants and courts from relying on earlier disclosures for guidance. Clear legal precedent showing what constitutes an adequate identification is thus lacking. This article examines the genesis, purpose, and leading cases interpreting §2019.210.

History of California §2019.210

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