Zimmerman, Axelrad, Stern & Wise, P.C.’s experienced lawyers advise clients on steps to protect and decrease risk of loss of trade secrets. The Firm also can prosecute and defend actions regarding the theft of trade secrets and for losses that have occurred.
The theft of valuable trade secrets can deal a severe blow to an entrepreneur, start-up company or established enterprise. Whether the trade secrets are sought through a rogue employee or industrial espionage by a competitor, there are ways to protect them. A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers. In some jurisdictions, such secrets are referred to as “confidential information” or “classified information.”
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, recipes and manufacturing processes. While a final determination of what information constitutes a trade secret will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, clearly unfair practices in respect of secret information include industrial or commercial espionage, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Inventions and processes that are not patentable may be protected under trade secret law. There are several factors used to determine if subject matter qualifies as a trade secret. Among the factors considered are the extent of measures taken by the trade secret owner to guard the secrecy of the information and the ease or difficulty with which the information could be properly acquired or duplicated by others. Based on these considerations, the general rule is that subject matter cannot be successfully protected as a trade secret if it is widely distributed. However, if adequate security precautions are taken to ensure that access to the subject matter being distributed is treated as secret, the subject matter may still be considered a trade secret. Unlike many of the other forms of intellectual property protection, trade secrets are protected by state in addition to federal law. Patent applicants generally rely on trade secret law to protect their inventions while the patent applications are pending.