Trade secrets can include a wide variety of types of information, but in short, they are anything that is valuable because it is a secret. It is essential that a business protect trade secrets by taking reasonable steps to keep the proprietary information a secret and not made public. There are differing degrees of what is considered “reasonable” depending upon the value of the business information. For example, maintaining your customer list in a locked cabinet with the documents marked “Confidential” may be a cost-effective means for protecting that information. Any additional efforts you make are also beneficial. However, the highly valuable formula for making Coca-Cola is likely locked in a vault with only a few key employees having access to open the vault.
It is important to understand that if you consider something to be a trade secret, you must do something to keep it private. If you do not take any actions to safeguard it, it will be extremely difficult to convince the court that you had a trade secret. You might be surprised at how much valuable business information is not protected as a trade secret because a few simple steps weren’t taken to protect it.
The downside to trade secret protection is that while it can be easy to acquire, it can also be easy to lose. Generally speaking, as soon as a trade secret is made public in any way, you lose all protection. There are a few rare cases where the court can issue an order of protection to contain a trade secret infraction, but in most cases it is impractical to regain the secrecy.
Trade secrets are a delicate matter. Every business should take reasonable measures to protect their confidential information. If other types of intellectual property safeguards are available, you should at least consider them. Working with a knowledgeable business attorney now to protect your proprietary information can save your business in the future.
Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. The attorneys at The Swenson Law Firm provide a variety of business law services to entities of all sizes.