Trade secrets are a valuable commodity in the business world. They can include anything from a formula for a new product to the customer list of a rival company. Trade secret litigation is becoming more and more common as businesses try to protect their trade secrets from being stolen or revealed. In this article, we will answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about trade secrets and trade secret litigation.
What Is a Trade Secret?
A trade secret is any piece of information that is:
- Known by a limited group of individuals
- Of some commercial value
- Subject to “reasonable steps taken” by the information keeper to maintain the secrecy of the information, as with a confidentiality agreement in business dealingsSharing this information must be authorized in order to be legal; unauthorized access to trade secrets is considered a violation of trade secret protection. There are three main kinds of trade secrets: commercial information like a list of clients, technical information such as manufacturing processes, and a combination of elements, like a formula for company success using public resources.
Are Trade Secrets Intellectual Property?
Intellectual Property (IP) can absolutely be a trade secret. IP examples include inventions, recipes, artistic and literary endeavors, symbols and designs, logos, and images.
Can Trade Secrets Be Patented?
Yes. Because trade secrets make up one-fourth of all Intellectual Property in the U.S. (with the others being patents, copyright, and trademark), trade secrets may be patented. They are also considered protected Intellectual Property.
What Is the Difference Between a Trade Secret and a Patent?
While both trade secrets and patents are considered Intellectual Property, trade secrets remain unexposed to the public, while patents offer the owner an exclusive 20-year monopoly on the right to use, make, and sell their invention to the public. This legal incentive is considered a reward for overcoming obstacles during the invention’s creation.
When Do Trade Secrets Expire?
Trade Secrets never expire; it is usable as long as it remains secret and offers the owner a competitive leg up. In comparison, patents will expire after their fixed term is over.
Why are Trade Secrets Important?
In short, trade secrets offer the information holder a competitive edge by continuing to stay proprietary. This is information that would cause a competing business to gain business that would otherwise come to you, such as client lists, formulas or recipes, and company tools.
How are Trade Secrets Protected?
There are a number of legal means by which an information holder can protect their trade secrets. Here are some of the most common ways businesses protect their trade secrets:
- Fortified IT security and infrastructure
- Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) between employers and employees and business partners prevent them from sharing valuable information with competitors.
- Non-Compete Agreements (NCAs) between employers and employees, consultants, and contractors which prevent them from working for the competition when their employment agreement ends.
- Keeping tight security on important company documents with restricted accessibility
Do I Need a Trade Secret Litigation Lawyer?
Even if you have good IT and campus security for your business, there are ways your trade secrets can be leaked. Commercial or industrial esponiage, breaches of confidence, and breaches of contract are three primary ways a trade secret will land in the hands of the competition.
For these instances and others, it may be key to protecting the longevity and continued health of your business by investing in a qualified trade secret litigation lawyer. Even if you don’t feel the need to use the full extent of your attorney’s services, you can always seek hourly or one-time legal counsel for your unique circumstances, so you know you are setting your business up for success.
Trade secret litigation is the process of suing someone for stealing or revealing your trade secret. This can be done in either state or federal court. Trade secret litigation can be costly and time-consuming, so it is important to consult with a lawyer before filing a lawsuit.
What Is the Difference Between a Breach of Confidence and a Breach of Contract?
A breach of confidence occurs when information that was verbally given “off the record” comes to public light in spite of prior agreement to keep it quiet. A breach of contract occurs when one side of a contract fails to satisfy the terms of the contract—this includes confidentiality clauses.
Trade Secret Litigation Lawyer Houston, TX
If you are in possession of valuable trade secrets, it is important to take steps to ensure their security. This includes implementing measures to protect your intellectual property as well as retaining the services of a qualified trade secret litigation lawyer.
At Welsh Law Firm, we have experience helping businesses just like yours protect their most sensitive information. Contact us today to get started!