A trade secret is a process, method, plan, formula or other information unique to its owner, which derives its value in part by not being generally known, thereby giving the owner a market advantage over its competitors.
A trade secret is separate from and covered under different law than a patentable invention. Trade secrets include, among others, business assets, such as financial data, customer lists, marketing strategies, and/or information and processes not known to the general public.
Use or disclosure of a trade secret by an employee, former employee, or anyone else may be prohibited for a variety of reasons and enforced by a court-ordered injunction.
The owner of a trade secret may seek damages against such a person who reveals their trade secret.
When trade secrets are involved in a lawsuit, a confidentiality "protective order" is often requested from the judge, requiring confidentiality of the alleged trade secret information and/or a sealing of the record of parts of the case where references to the trade secret are made, in order to prohibit revelation of the trade secret and protect its confidentiality.
Trade secrets are defined as follows:
"Trade secret" means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that:
- derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being easily ascertainable by proper means, by other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and
- is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
Trade secret cases are difficult to prove and expensive to litigate. Charges of misappropriation of trade secrets by a plaintiff against a defendant are serious and usually highly emotional charged, since the plaintiff typically feels violated and the defendant feels wrongfully accused.
Winsten Law Group regularly counsels clients about trade secret issues, including protection of trade secrets and how to avoid being charged with misappropriating trade secrets. We have also successfully defended against numerous trade secret cases, all of which have either been settled or dismissed prior to trial.
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