I. What is a trade secret?
A trade secret can be any information not known generally in the trade that is used in business to provide an advantage over competitors.
II. What is the value of a trade secret?
Trade secrets can create an advantage over competitors in many of the same ways as patents. Also, the right to use trade secret information can be licensed or the information can be sold outright. Although trade secrets provide no protection against those who independently develop the trade secret information, trade secrets never expire as do patents and copyrights. For example, as long as it is kept secret, the formula to COCA-COLA® will remain a trade secret indefinitely.
III. What kind of things can be a trade secret?
A trade secret can be any information that has value in that it is useful in business and has some cost associated with its development, and is generally and not commonly known in the particular trade. The following types of information have previously been found to qualify as proper trade secret subject matter:
- A. customer lists;
B. chemical processes and formulas;
C. algorithms and processes that are implemented in computer programs and the programs themselves;
D. designs, drawings, architectural plans and blueprints;
E. data compilations, business plans and methods of doing business; and
F. manufacturing or repair processes and techniques.
IV. How are trade secrets obtained?
Trade secret rights can be obtained only by developing the information representing the trade secret and maintaining the secrecy of the information. The first step in obtaining trade secrets, then, is to become aware of those things that give your business a competitive advantage. All copies of the trade secret information should be marked “confidential,” access to the information should be limited to key personnel, and the information should be disclosed only in a written confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement if it is to be disclosed at all.
V. How long does a trade secret last?
A trade secret lasts as long as it is secret. Once the information is generally known in the trade, the trade secret status and protection is lost and cannot be recaptured.
Trade Secrets Services:
- Trade secret counseling
- Representation in trade secret related transactions including confidentiality agreements, assignments, and licensing
- Trade secret related mediation and litigation support