The term trade secret applies to information that is not publicly known and from which its owner derives advantage over competitors and/or economic benefit. The owner of the information must have taken appropriate action to ensure its secrecy. Some types of trade secrets that qualify for protection under the Act include blueprints for machinery, chemical processes and formulas, production processes and marketing data, such as lists of customers.
The Act provides protection for a trade secret permanently or for as long as the information remains secret. This protection is provided without the requirement of trade secret registration.
The Juslaws Trademark and Copyright Practice work with clients to protect their trade secrets with a comprehensive range of legal services.
Advising clients on trade secret protection
Legal representation in trade secret infringement cases
It is important for companies to both identify business trade secrets and take the necessary steps to protect them. These actions can be crucial in protecting valuable intellectual property assets.
Companies may need to decide whether to protect information as a trade secret or to apply for a patent. If the company chooses to protect information as a trade secret, it must take appropriate measures to ensure that those persons to whom the trade secret is disclosed are bound by stringent confidentiality and nondisclosure obligations.
The main advantage of classifying information as a trade secret as opposed to applying for a patent is that legal protection for a trade secret may extend permanently, or for as long as the information is kept secret. Patents are typically granted limited terms of protection.
The Act provides protection against the unlawful appropriation of confidential information. This includes compilations, devices, formulas, patterns, processes, programs and techniques.
For a company’s information to qualify for legal protection under the Trade Secret Act, there are three conditions that have to be met:
The information cannot be known to the public or cannot yet be accessible by persons who are normally associated with it
It must have economic value that is due to its secrecy
The owner of the information must have taken appropriate actions to ensure secrecy
Appropriate actions to ensure secrecy include confidentiality and nondisclosure clauses in employment contracts and other agreements.
For a trade secret protected under the provisions of the Act, any disclosure or use of such secret information without the owner’s consent constitutes an infringement, if the infringer is aware or should be aware that the action is unlawful.
The owner of the trade secret can petition the court for a preliminary (temporary) injunction or a permanent injunction against the infringer and for an award of compensation for damages incurred. There are also criminal penalties that can be imposed against a person who publicly discloses a trade secret with the intent of causing damage to the trade secret owner’s business.