Goings Legal offers:
- education and assistance in identifying confidential information and trade secrets
- counsel on best practices for protecting trade secrets and other intellectual property internally
- education and assistance developing company policy for handling confidential materials
- strong confidentiality agreements to prevent disclosure of trade secrets
- strong non-disclosure agreements to protect you while you pitch
What are trade secrets?
Broadly speaking, any confidential business information which provides an enterprise a competitive edge may be considered a trade secret. Much like patents, trade secrets can protect business practices, manufacturing processes, and compositions or formulas, but they can also include software source code, client lists, and much more.
How do I protect trade secrets?
Basically, keep them a secret. The fewer people that know the information, the better for you. And for those to whom you do reveal confidential information, be sure to have strong company policy and/or contractual restrictions on what, if anything, and to whom they can reveal the information. For example, KFC has strong security measures in place to protect its “11 herbs and spices” blend. Only one copy (physical or digital) of the recipe exists, and it is kept locked in a vault. KFC also uses three different companies to produce the spice mix: two to mix the halves, and a third to combine them into a final product.
Can someone copy my trade secrets?
Contrary to the rigid, monopoly-giving protections of patents (even against independent discovery), it is legal for any third party to use the confidential information of another. However, the knowledge must be discovered through legal means, such as independent research or reverse engineering. For example, the LISTERINE formula was a trade secret until others discovered the formula; now, the formula is public knowledge, free for anyone to use.
What happens if someone steals my trade secrets?
If a third party procures confidential information or trade secrets through illegal means, you can file a lawsuit against the culprit(s) to prevent them from using the information. You may also be able to obtain damages for the theft. However, once trade secrets are revealed (depending on the extent to which they are made known) , it may difficult to keep enforcing them.