What is a trade secret?

Trade secrets are any closely held information that you may have that gives your business a competitive advantage. It does not matter that such information may be obtainable by others through hard work. As long as you can keep the information secret it will be your trade secret. Trade secret law varies from state to state but most states follow the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Technical information that is not easily reverse engineered is a good candidate for trade secret protection. If the technical information is easily reversed engineered then you should consider filing a patent application to cover that product or process since if it is easily reverse engineered it will cease to be a secret. However, patent protection will only exist for the lifetime of the patent, which is 20 years from the filing date of the application, whereas trade secret protection can last indefinitely so long as the information remains secret.

Trade secrets are not just technical information. Having an understanding of trade secret law and the law as it relates to other forms of intellectual property will allow you to select the protection that is most appropriate for your business.

Protecting your trade secret:

Part of treating trade secret information seriously is to limit the number of people that have access to that information. It is not much of a secret if all of your employees have access to it. Training on the proper handling of trade secret information is of the utmost importance since failure to have proper procedures in place for handling trade secret information may result in valuable information being made public. Further, if an employee or former employee uses your trade secret information and you do not have procedures in place for handling that information, a court may determine that you no longer have a secret to protect. Therefore, it is important for you to treat trade secret information as just that, a secret, and if you treat this seriously, so will your employees. A nondisclosure agreement is a contract between two parties that may be used to maintain the confidentiality of closely held information like a trade secret or a patent application.

For additional Information, visit:

http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/18C90.txt - Chapter 90 of the Title 18, Protection of trade secrets.