Trade Secret Protection
What is a trade secret?
Trade secrets, while considered a part of intellectual property, are actually governed under the law of contracts.
In order to be considered a trade secret the subject matter must be valuable information that is kept relatively secret or not readily available.
Examples of trade secrets include things such as the recipe for making a specific type of soda - CocaCola or Pepsi, for instance. A trade secret may also be the formulas for products, manufacturing processes, marketing techniques, customer and supplier lists, and even financial practices.
An important distinction about trade secrets is that they are not protected by the federal government the same way the other three forms (patents, trademarks, and copyrights) are. A trade secret is only protected for as long as it is a secret. Once the secret is out it can no longer be protected; however, there are legal steps that can be taken if the information is wrongfully disseminated.
Do I need trade secret protection?
A trade secret is information that adds economic value to your product or service.
In order to qualify for trade secret protection the information generally must not be known outside of your place or business and must not be readily ascertainable by the public.
If you feel you have information that you would not revealed relating to the production of the products your company manufactures or sells that adds value to your product, which sets you apart from your competitors, you most likely have a trade secret and need to make sure you have steps in place to protect the secret
How do I get trade secret protection?
Unlike patents and trademarks, your legal rights in a trade secret arise as soon as there is a secret to protect. Also, unlike patents, trademarks, and copyrights, trade secrets are governed under state law, not federal law. There are no applications that need to be submitted to the state government for protection of trade secrets because that would require disclosure of the secret.
There are, however, still legal steps that can be taken to protect your trade secret. Most of these steps are preventative measures, to keep the trade secret a secret - to protect it from misappropriation.
Inventory business information to see if any information may qualify as a trade secret.
If information is found to qualify as a trade secret then a plan must be developed to protect the secret - this includes considering who will hold the information and who may access the information.
Make sure to have signed confidentiality agreements from employees that have or are allowed access to any or all of the information.
If suppliers or customers have access to the information you will want to have signed confidentiality agreements with them as well.
Hurchalla Law can help you with confidentiality agreements, contracts, and nondisclosure agreements to help protect your trade secret.
Outside links for more information
Florida's Uniform Trade Secret Act
World Intellectual Property Organization Trade Secret Informaiton
United States Patent and Trademark Office Policy Considerations Behind Trade Secrets
Cornell's Legal Information Institute on Trade Secrets
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