Three Critical Questions Regarding Trade Secrets

Mike Abrams
June 5, 2008 — 911 views  

How do I know that I have a trade secret?

Many people are under the misimpression that a trade secret needs to be something akin to the secret recipe of herbs and spices for Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, the truth is that trade secrets come in many different varieties, including customer and pricing information, computer programs and databases, as well as formulas, devices, methods, techniques, and processes. For the information to qualify as a trade secret under the legal test, the information (1) must not be generally known to the public, (2) must provide the owner with independent economic value (actual or potential), (3) must not be readily ascertainable by legal means, and (4) is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.

What can I do to secure my trade secrets?

Once a company has identified its trade secrets it should develop and enforce a policy regarding the treatment of trade secrets, including at a minimum (1) limiting access to the information, (2) labeling confidential information, (3) securing the trade secrets in designated areas, and (4) creating confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements for execution by its employees.

What are my remedies if my trade secret is taken?

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act allows injunctive relief if there is an actual or threatened misappropriation and monetary damages. Courts can issue injunctions preventing actual or threatened misappropriation for the period of time necessary to eliminate any commercial advantage that otherwise would be derived from the misappropriation. In fact, injunctions can condition future use of the trade secret upon payment of a reasonable royalty. Damages can include both the actual loss caused by the misappropriation and the amount in which the defendant has been unjustly enriched by the misappropriation.

Lathrop & Gage’s Business Litigation and Intellectual Property departments are staffed with experienced lawyers who can assist you in identifying whether you have a trade secret, implementing a plan to protect those trade secrets, and enforcing or defending your interests when trade secrets have been misappropriated.

Mike Abrams’ practice includes trade secrets/covenants not to compete, professional liability and communications law. He can be reached at (816) 460-5530 or [email protected]

Mike Abrams

Lathrop & Gage L.C.