Dedicated Trade Secret Lawyers
Reliable Trade Secret Protection | Strong Security Measures
WHAT IS A TRADE SECRET?
The subject matter of trade secrets is usually defined in broad terms and includes sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes. Broadly speaking, any confidential business information providing an enterprise a competitive advantage may be considered a trade secret.
The Value of a Trade Secret is Derived from its Secrecy
Ensure A Strategy That Will Protect Your Hidden Assets
While trade secrets receive protection without registration, certain conditions generally must be met for information to be considered a trade secret.
HOW ARE TRADE SECRETS PROTECTED?
In order to benefit from the protection offered under the law, the owner of trade secret information must take reasonable steps to keep it secret. Reasonable steps may include physical and/or cyber security measures, use of contractual agreements, and adhering to marking and security policies.
MEANS OF PROTECTION
The actions that must be taken to protect trade secrets varies widely, depending on the form and type of information to be protected. Reasonable steps to ensure secrecy may include, but are not limited to, restriction of physical access, cyber-security measures, use of contractual agreements, marking practices, and employee education.
LEARN MORE ABOUT TRADE SECRETS
What should you do when a trusted, key employee with valuable inside information is lured away by your nastiest competitor? You should immediately consult with knowledgeable legal counsel and determine whether the former employee understands the limits on her possession and use of confidential information of the company. Aggressive and quick legal action may be warranted because any delay in asserting the company’s rights can be extremely costly, detrimental and not subject to compensation by monetary damages. The company may be entitled to injunctive relief.
Of course, a former key employee possesses high-value information from years of working for your business. Valuable trade secrets, most often, are taken and misused by departing and disgruntled employees who have access to confidential information due to their role in the business. Many executives are not aware of the imperative for businesses to consistently make records of following clear practices that limit access and use of the company’s trade secret information by employees and third parties. Many trade secrets thus are not adequately protected, and employers often lose control of valuable information when key employees depart.
What qualifies as a trade secret? Trade secrets, generally, are instances of confidential information that have value. You can envision secret ingredients, proprietary algorithms, secret production processes, formulas, and confidential financial information about the business. Information disclosed at trade shows and in sales presentations or investor roadshows generally is not confidential, and not protectable as trade secrets. A key concept is that both access and knowledge must be limited.
Ultimately, whether or not the possession of business information is merely troubling, or wrongful misappropriation of trade secrets, is often determined by your business practices. Do you regularly and clearly protect confidential information? Can you prove that business practices were consistently followed to maintain secrecy of the alleged confidential information? Limits placed on employees’ access to and use of the allegedly confidential information must be documented, usually in advance of any dispute.
At Hunt Pennington Kumar & Dula PLLC, a leading intellectual property law firm, we understand the value of your clients’ trade secrets. The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 has recognized trade secrets as a form of federally-protected IP alongside patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
The America Invents Act and Alice drastically changed the patent law landscape. Businesses of all sizes are required to strategically re-evaluate how to protect their proprietary information, technology, and know-how. Thus, trade secret protection, enforcement, and litigation are becoming not only frequent but also complex. With years of experience, Hunt Pennington Kumar & Dula PLLC is ready to help protect and realize the value of its clients’ portfolio.
We work alongside our clients to create strategies that protect and maximize the value of their trade secrets. Our attorneys have substantial experience helping clients protect their sensitive business information and novel, market-disrupting innovations using the full gamut of intellectual property law. Where we determine that information is best protected under trade secret law, we create systems and procedures to ensure that sensitive business information remains legally protected as trade secrets and that they are guarded against loss or theft. We regularly help our clients:
- Assess whether proprietary information should be protected under patent, trade secret, or other intellectual property law
- Identify, map, and develop their trade secrets
- Design and implement information security plans, procedures, and policies (including a comprehensive cybersecurity plan) to protect trade secrets from misappropriation and loss
- Counsel on best practices as to maintaining the value and secrecy of trade secrets
- Advise on how to strategically manage, license, and realize the value of their IP portfolio.
The disclosure of trade secrets may seriously compromise a company’s competitive advantage. Contact us today to learn more.
1) What is a trade secret?
Ans. The subject matter of trade secrets is usually defined in broad terms and includes sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes. Broadly speaking, any confidential business information providing an enterprise a competitive advantage may be considered a trade secret.
2) What are examples of trade secrets?
Ans. The recipe for Coca-Cola
KFC’s 11 herbs and spices
The definition of a New York Times bestseller
McDonald’s “special sauce”
The formula for WD-40
Krispy Kreme doughnuts recipe
3) What is the value of trade secrets?
Ans. The value of trade secrets can vary drastically depending on the information being kept secret. The recipe for Coca-Cola and Amazon’s customer purchasing information are conceivably worth millions of dollars. While these are exceptionally valuable trade secrets, other trade secrets, including your own, have value. This value helps set you apart from your competition, and can only be maintained through proper and diligent maintenance.
4) Why should I protect my trade secrets?
Ans. Protecting your trade secrets allows you to maintain a competitive advantage and sustain the value of the trade secret asset in perpetuity.
5) When should I protect trade secrets?
Ans. Because the value of a trade secret is inherently based on its secrecy, the actions to protect potential trade secrets should be taken prior to any potential public, or even private, disclosure.
6) How do I protect trade secrets?
Ans. To benefit from statutory trade secret protection, the owner of the trade secret must undertake reasonable steps to keep it secret (e.g., through confidentiality agreements, physical and cyber security measures, and through appropriate marking).
7) How long does trade secret protection last?
Ans. Trade secret protection, unlike many other forms of intellectual property protection, may be perpetual if properly managed and maintained.
8) Have there been recent changes in trade secret law?
Ans. Yes. On May 11, 2016 the United States enacted the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Among other things, the Defend Trade Secrets Act grants legal immunity to corporate whistle-blowers and allows an owner of a trade secret to sue in federal court when its trade secrets have been misappropriated. The Act also introduces a civil seizure mechanism for misappropriated trade secrets. The civil seizure mechanism is a preventative tool employed prior to a formal finding of misappropriation in which a court, on ex parte application by a trade-secret owner, may “issue an order providing for the seizure of property necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret that is the subject of the action.”
9) Why get help from Hunt Pennington Kumar & Dula PLLC?
Ans. We provide the key to solving your trade secret issues!
Your company may have trade secret information that you were not even aware of. Correctly identifying and protecting your trade secrets cannot be done retroactively. If not properly protected by you, such information may not enjoy protection under the law.
You have worked tirelessly to gain a competitive advantage over your competition. Don’t let others steal your valuable business assets. Take advanced action and protect yourself!
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