As a business owner, you may have trade secrets that give your business a competitive edge over the companies that offer similar products. Consequently, maintaining the secrecy of these trade secrets is vital to your business and its success. But what remedies do you have if someone steals or otherwise expropriates one of your trade secrets and/or discloses its nature?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office explains that trade secrets represent a form of intellectual property that your company owns. Examples include the following:
- Your company’s marketing strategies
- Its manufacturing techniques
- Its new inventions for which you have applied but not yet received patents
- Its computer algorithms
- Its formulas
- Its ideas for future products
To qualify as a trade secret, however, you must use this secret information in the course of your business and you must make reasonable efforts to protect its secrecy. Generally, you do this by having your employees and others privy to the information sign nondisclosure agreements.
Trade secret enforcement
If someone expropriates one of your trade secrets and/or divulges it to others, you can file a civil lawsuit in either state or federal court. Where you file depends on the location of who you sue. You can ask the court for any of the following relief:
- Issuance of an order of seizure of your expropriated trade secret from its expropriator
- Issuance of an injunction forbidding the expropriator from divulging the information (s)he illegally obtained
- Issuance of an order requiring the expropriator to pay you a royalty fee for the information (s)he already divulged
- Issuance of an order requiring the expropriator to pay you monetary damages as well as the court costs and attorneys’ fees you paid to bring the lawsuit
Keep in mind that your company has automatic trade secret protection. You need not register them with the USPTO. In addition, your trade secret protection remains in effect for as long as your business continues to use them and protect their confidentiality.