What is a Trade Secret?

Confidential Trade SecretsA Trade Secret is information that has economic value to a business through its secrecy or confidentiality. This can be proprietary information such as customer lists, product plans, sales and marketing plans, employee rosters, formulas, technical information, data (financial, research and laboratorial), designs and processes.

Such information is a trade secret if it is not publicly known or generally acknowledged as being in the public domain; if it has economic value specifically because it remains outside of public knowledge; and efforts have been made by its owner to keep it a secret from the public. There is no formal registration process for trade secrets. Instead, the trade secret owner must take reasonable steps to maintain the secrecy of the secret and valuable information.

In California, trade secrets are recognized under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, California Civil Code Section 3426 et seq. Additionally, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), 18 U.S.C. Section 1839 et seq., adopted in 2016, provided an additional federal cause of action for trade secret misappropriation and included enhanced damages and a preliminary seizure remedy "necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret." Federal law includes both civil and criminal penalties for misappropriation of trade secrets. There are other federal statutes which addresses other aspects of trade secret misappropriation and espionage.

SHERMAN IP’s Experience with Trade Secrets

SHERMAN IP attorneys specialize in developing internal programs to secure your information, including drafting Non-Disclosure Agreements, that will protect your company's trade secrets and proprietary information when dealing with others, thereby providing a foundation of security. SHERMAN IP attorneys can determine whether your trade secrets have been disclosed through “improper means” or “misappropriated.” In such cases litigation may become necessary to protect your rights and prevent further use and disclosure of your trade secrets. Failure to protect and enforce your trade secret rights can severely impact your business by allowing others to use your own secret information and processes to unfairly compete with you in your own market.

SHERMAN IP attorneys have extensive experience in litigation and transactions concerning trade secrets and proprietary information cutting across numerous industries. Due to rampant Internet usage and the portability and accessibility of online databases, it is becoming increasingly difficult to protect personal and proprietary information. The SHERMAN IP team helps our clients establish and improve trade secret protection programs both physical and online.