A trade secret may consist of any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one’s business and which gives someone an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.
Common types of trade secrets include industrial or manufacturing secrets, formulas, processes, production methods, distribution or sales methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, and client or supplier lists, among many others. Using trade secrets improperly is a violation of trade secret protection under various laws prohibiting industrial/commercial espionage, breach of contract, or unauthorized dissemination of confidential information.
Unlike other kinds of intellectual property, trade secrets aren’t registered anywhere, and can be protected for an unlimited period of time. Some general standards exist about what is necessary for something to be considered a trade secret:
- The information must be secret (i.e. it is not generally known among, or readily accessible to, competitors or peers in the industry or specialization).
- It must have commercial value because it is a secret.
- The rightful holder of the information must take reasonable steps to keep it secret (e.g., through confidentiality agreements).
If a plaintiff proves that someone has misappropriated trade secrets, it is usually entitled to injunctive relief, to try and halt any further misappropriationAdditionally, a plaintiff can recover damages in an amount sufficient to compensate it for the economic loss caused by the defendant’s misappropriation, and possibly punitive damages, prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees.
Susan can help you avoid claims for trade secret violations and, if appropriate, to litigate trade secret issues.