WHAT QUALIFIES AS A TRADE SECRET?
Trade secrets are a key component of a company’s intellectual property. In fact, trade secrets are often a company’s most valuable asset and may consist of any formula, technique, process, pattern, or device that provides the business with a competitive edge.
The skillful business litigation attorneys at COFFYLAW, LLC can help you identify what qualifies as a trade secret and what steps you need to take to protect it from infringement, theft, and misappropriation by employees or competitors. Our trade secrets attorneys with offices in New Jersey and New York have a track record of success representing businesses in intellectual property disputes and litigation cases across many industries. COFFYLAW, LLC is proud to represent clients across the nation.
Understanding Trade Secrets
A trade secret is a form of intellectual property (IP) that is not known to people outside of the company and provides the company with a competitive advantage. Trade secrets may constitute techniques, formulas, patterns, and other types of processes or practices used by a company in the operations of the business.
Trade secrets fall under the umbrella of confidential information that has a potential or actual economic value from not being disclosed to competitors. When a trade secret is disclosed to the public, it loses its economic value.
A trade secret is legally valid when it meets the following three conditions:
- The company has made a reasonable effort to keep the information confidential and conceal it from the public;
- The secret has potential or actual economic value; and
- The secret contains critical information that gives the company a competitive advantage.
Unlike other types of intellectual property, including patents and trademarks, trade secrets are not registered with any government agency.
Examples of Trade Secrets
To give you an idea of what qualifies as a trade secret, below is the list of some of the most famous trade secrets:
- Tesla’s business processes
- Google’s search algorithm
- Coca-Cola’s recipe
- WD-40’s secret formula
- McDonald’s Big Mac sauce
A trade secret can be anything ranging from a formula, method, and technique to processes, devices, programs, and patterns used by a company and not known to others. In general, trade secrets do not have an expiration date. However, a trade secret loses protection once the secret is discovered or the company issues a public release of the secret.
New Jersey & New York State Laws Addressing Trade Secrets
In most states, trade secrets are governed by federal law and the respective state’s statutes. Laws addressing trade secrets differ from state to state. Below is some basic information about trade secret laws in New York and New Jersey:
- New York has not adopted any statutes covering the protection of trade secrets. In fact, New York and Massachusetts are the only two states that have not adopted UTSA, which stands for the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Disputes involving trade secret misappropriation and other matters related to trade secrets are governed by the common law in New York. The state also imposes civil liability for misappropriation of trade secrets, which allows businesses in New York to seek civil remedies for acts of misappropriation.
- New Jersey offers wide protections for companies against theft or misappropriation of trade secrets. In particular, the state enacted the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act in 2012, which allows companies to make misappropriation claims against their own employees, employees of competing companies, corporate officers, and other corporations. Under the Act, employers can seek legal remedies when existing or departing employees misappropriate their trade secrets. The Act also permits employers to obtain a court order to protect their trade secrets that are at risk of being stolen, disclosed, or misappropriated.
Federal and state laws addressing trade secrets can be complicated and nuanced. It’s important to seek legal counsel from a skilled trade secret attorney to help you better understand the law. The attorneys at COFFYLAW, LLC assist clients in navigating the terrain of trade secret law and help them address trade secret issues that may arise in the course of business operations.
How Skilled Counsel Can Help
If your business has a process, device, formula, technique, pattern, or practice that is critical to your company and needs to be protected, the attorneys at COFFYLAW, LLC can help. If your trade secrets have been stolen, disclosed to the public, or misappropriated, you need to understand your legal rights and options.
The team of knowledgeable and results-driven attorneys at COFFYLAW, LLC helps businesses of all sizes develop trade secret protection plans, identify infringement or theft, and hold competitors or employees liable for misappropriation of trade secrets. The business law attorneys at the law firm provide smart and aggressive representation to businesses of any size across New Jersey, New York, and the rest of the country.
Reach Out to COFFYLAW, LLC
A trade secret may be one of your company’s most valuable assets and also one of the biggest risks in the event of misappropriation, theft, or infringement. Someone improperly acquiring your trade secret can cause tremendous damage to your business.
The trade secret attorneys at COFFYLAW, LLC are dedicated to helping companies stay on track to achieve their objectives and take the necessary steps to protect the confidentiality of trade secrets. The law firm can help you protect what is truly important to your company. If you live in New Jersey, New York, or anywhere else in the nation, reach out today to schedule a case evaluation and discuss your trade secret concerns.