Trade Secrets Lawyers
What are Trade Secrets?
The Uniform Trade Secret Act defines a trade secret as "information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process" that has independent economic value as a result of its secrecy. Trade secrets usually arise in employment settings. There is no need to register a trade secret to get Federal and State Law protections. Trade secrets are also known as "confidential information" or "classified information".
Trade secrets consist of three components:
- Information not known to the public
- The information is economically beneficial to the holder
- The information holder makes reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy
What Is the Difference Between a Trade Secret, a Trademark and a Patent?
There are a number of differences between the sources of intellectual property protection. First, unlike trademarks and patents, trade secrets do not need to be registered to get federal and state law protections. Second, trademarks and patents, as logos or inventions, are revealed and oftentimes used by the public. Trade secrets are concealed from the public as the economic edge the holder has from the trade secret may disappear once the information is public.
Finally, trademarks and patents are subject to a number of legal exemptions which trade secrets do not have. Trademarks are often copied for satire or parody under First Amendment freedom of speech protections. Patents typically carry an expiration date of twenty years. A company which holds and guards its trade secrets carefully may keep information hidden longer than a patent term.
How Do Businesses Protect Their Trade Secrets Without Registering Them With Federal or State Offices?
Since trade secrets are not revealed to the public, trade secret violations usually arise in employment settings. As such, companies can legally protect their trade secrets by adding certain terms to employment contracts. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) are the most straight forward protections, as a NDA requires employees to be silent about company information. Non-Compete Covenants are also used to ensure that trade secrets are not passed to competitors through ex-employees.
The Difficulties Surrounding Trade Secret Lawsuits
A difficulty arises when another person claims they created the trade secret before you. It is very important to maintain a dated record demonstrating the date you created the trade secret.
Keeping the Trade Secret's Secret
It is getting more and more difficult to maintain the secrecy of a trade secret. In order to maintain the secrecy, employers should develop policies and procedures regarding an employee's use of the trade secret and any communications the employee may make regarding the trade secret.
An employer can address these policies in trainings or orientations as soon as the employee is hired. The employer can also require their employees to sign confidentiality agreements regarding their trade secrets. The employer should clearly convey his or her intent to maintain the confidentiality of the trade secret.
Do I Need an Attorney Experienced with Trade Secrets?
If you believe that someone is using your trade secret without your permission, an attorney can help you through an initial investigation for a lawsuit. If you are considering using information that may be someone else's trade secret, or are accused of taking someone else's trade secret, you should speak with a lawyer immediately to evaluate your liability.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 04-25-2012 02:52 PM PDT