The law of trade secrets protects confidential ideas, information, processes, patterns, plans, devices, formulas, and other business “know-how” from being improperly divulged or ascertained. This “know-how” can often give businesses competitive advantages over competitors who do not have an adequate substitute for the information, idea, etc. Businesses often develop in-house ideas that may not necessarily be protectable by other forms of intellectual property protection such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights, but still provide a valuable asset for the business. Sometimes these ideas could be protected by other forms of intellectual property, but businesses believe they would be more valuable to be kept confidential and allow the business to derive its benefit by being the sole user of that information. These types of ideas are trade secrets and they can exist forever so long as they are kept a secret.
One of the biggest challenges in retaining information as a trade secret is preventing accidental disclosure or illicit discovery of the trade secret by others. Trade secrets are protected by both state and federal laws, and courts typically consider the following factors to determine whether a particular piece of information is a trade secret:
- How widely is the secret information known outside the business?
- Who within the business knows the secret information?
- What precautions has the business taken to keep the information secret?
- How valuable is the secret information to the business and its competitors?
- How much money, effort, or resources has the business expended in either developing or acquiring the secret information?
- How difficult would it be for others to lawfully replicate or acquire the secret information?
Businesses relying on trade secrets to safeguard their intellectual assets should have protocols, procedures, and agreements in place to ensure their employees do not inadvertently divulge the trade secrets or permit the means to allow others to learn about the trade secrets. This is particularly challenging when employees leave the company especially if it occurs under unfriendly circumstances.
Rahman LLC can assist clients in developing in-house protocols, procedures, programs, and agreements to protect trade secrets, as well as performing audits of current in-house procedures to determine whether the company’s trade secrets are at risk of being lost. The firm’s attorneys have assisted clients with confidential/non-disclosure agreements, joint venture agreements, strategic alliance agreements, and other types of contracts where trade secrets are safeguarded.
Trade Secret services:
- Protection protocols: programs, procedures, agreements