A trade secret is confidential information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can derive an economic advantage over competitors. Trade secrets may be a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information kept secret by you or your business. Trade secrets do not include information that competitors may obtain independently, such as by reverse engineering a commercially available product. One well-known example of a trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola.
Through trade secret law, confidential and/or proprietary business information that is not patented or part of a registered copyright may still be protected. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act, enacted by most states, protects information that derives independent economic value from being generally unknown information. In contrast to patents, trade secrets may extend indefinitely, if properly protected and kept confidential.
The owner of a trade secret must continuously engage in conduct to preserve trade secrets. Thus, a trade secret generally should be disclosed only to employees requiring the trade secret to perform their jobs. Persons or businesses improperly acquiring trade secrets may be barred by a court from using the information. Damages for lost profits or the value of the improperly acquired trade secret may be available.
Trade Secret as Intellectual Property Asset
Trade secrets can be significant intellectual property assets. They can provide significant competitive advantages for an unlimited period, if protected properly. Accordingly, a comprehensive program for identifying, maintaining and protecting trade secrets must be an essential component of your company’s business plan.
How We Can Help
Maintaining confidential information as a trade secret may or may not be the best option for protecting the information. The answer depends on many individual factors, including: likelihood of a competitor reverse engineering your product; the ability to restrict access to the information; and the ability to manage the use of the information. We can help you determine if keeping information a trade secret is best for your company. When maintaining information as a trade secret is best, we can help by: developing and implementing corporate trade secret protection programs and policies including employment and other confidentiality agreements.