Intellectual Property Law
Trade Secrets Overview
A trade secret, as the term suggests, is a secret a business keeps about some aspect of its workings, such as a process, formula, design, practice, customer list, or other confidential information. One of the best known trade secrets in the world is Coca Cola®’s formula to its cola soda. Unlike other intellectual property protections, i.e. copyright, trademarks, and patents, there is no formal registration or legal process by which businesses can petition the government for the exclusive right to their trade secrets. Instead, trade secrets are established and maintained through a web of procedural safeguards, technical security measures, and legal documents designed to protect the secrecy of the information and to prohibit those who must know it from disclosing or otherwise using that information for their own benefit.
While each jurisdiction defines what constitutes a “trade secret” slightly differently, all of their definitions share the following similarities:
- The information to be protected is not generally known;
- The information to be protected provides economic benefit to the holder; and
- The holder uses reasonable efforts to keep the information secret.
The last point is where it is most important to engage knowledgeable legal counsel. An attorney familiar with intellectual property and employment issues, such as those in our firm, can draft non-compete, non-disclosure and related employment agreements that show you are taking steps to protect your trade secrets and clearly define who owns the intellectual property at stake and in what ways it can be used. Trade secrets as a matter of business are tied very closely to confidentiality agreements, employment contracts, and due diligence strategy. It cannot be stressed enough that having procedures and written agreements in place to protect your trade secrets is crucial to establishing your ownership of the trade secrets and will provide you the ammunition you need to shut down rogue employees and others who might try and misuse your valuable confidential information for their own purposes. If your trade secrets are violated or misused, your procedural safeguards and written agreements will be your main source of proof that you are due damages. Our attorneys are well acquainted with all applicable laws governing trade secrets, including the Uniform Trade Secrets Act adopted by the state of Maryland. To schedule a consultation, contact us using the contact form at the right or directly at (410) 752-9300.