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Trade Secrets Law
Trade Secrets Law Definition
Fueled by the ability to electronically capture and disseminate information in a matter of mere milliseconds, trade secrets are increasingly difficult to keep. This form of intellectual property is nonetheless among a company’s most important assets. Properly protected and applied, trade secrets can contribute to the success of a company’s business model. In the absence of sound safeguards and security policies, the likely misappropriation of trade secrets can as easily lead to its downfall.
Trade secrets include, but are not limited to, formulas, developmental processes, product designs, customer lists, and marketing data. A trade secret (1) derives economic value, actual or potential, because it is not generally known and cannot be readily ascertained by proper means by persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use and (2) is the subject of efforts to maintain its secrecy that are reasonable under the circumstances. While patents can protect an invention for a certain period of time, trade secrets can last as long as they are protected.
Trade secrets are the frequent target of appropriation by improper means, such as theft, bribery, misrepresentation, espionage, or breach or inducement of a breach of duty to maintain secrecy.
Attorneys provide both counseling on the identification and protection of proprietary information and litigation services in instances of alleged misappropriation of proprietary information.
Attorneys assist in the development and implementation of trade secret protection plans. These invariably include the use of non-disclosure agreements signed by company executives and employees. Strong plans also rely on written policies that help employees identify and protect a company’s trade secrets, demonstrate management’s commitment to that objective, and provide notice to third parties that certain information is claimed as trade secrets. Plan implementation is especially important as courts emphasize strong, genuine efforts over boilerplate forms and unenforced policy statements.
Trade secret and unfair competition claims are prosecuted and defended in various courtrooms and arbitration forums throughout the United States and internationally. A thorough understanding of proprietary information, including manufacturing methods, algorithms, process equipment, and software is essential to the development and execution of a litigation strategy that successfully advances client objectives.
While trade secret law has developed from state common law, regulation is now standard and addresses both civil and criminal liability. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) codified and harmonized standards and remedies for commercial claims. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have adopted its framework. On the other hand, the federal Economic Espionage Act of 1996 criminalized the theft of trade secrets related to national security and for commercial purposes.
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