Customer lists, marketing plans, pricing structures, production processes, recipes, formulae, and more.
State and federal law protects this knowledge so long as you treat it like the sensitive information it is.
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which has been adopted by Pennsylvania and most other states, protects information that 1) is not generally known outside your organization, 2) provides you economic value or business advantage by being secret, and 3) is subject to reasonable efforts to preserve its secrecy.
What makes an effort reasonable? Courts will assess whether a company had procedures and policies in place to protect information from outside access and to prevent wrongful use by an employee. This may include marking information as confidential or secret, keeping information in a secure location, and having anyone with access to trade secret information sign a written confidentiality agreement.
Written agreements should require anyone accessing trade secret information to keep information at least as secure as it was in your organization and to avoid disclosing the information to any unauthorized party. Aside from setting clear standards for employee conduct, written confidentiality agreements with employees are vital to protecting trade secret information.
Unlike other types of intellectual property, there is no registration requirement for trade secrets, any action to keep your trade secrets secret will depend on the paper trail evidencing your efforts. So long as the secret provides value for your business, proper steps should be taken to secure such information.
Some trade secret information, such as production processes and computer source code, may be even better protected by a patent or by copyright law.
The IP Corner at Metz Lewis is ready to help you protect your business and guide you in all areas of intellectual property law. Contact us to learn more.
This post was written by Matthew Borges