When many think of trade secrets, they think of the formula for Coca-Cola, KFC’s 11 herbs and spices, or Google’s search algorithm. But the world of trade secrets goes far beyond these famous examples. In fact, chances are good that your business, large or small, has trade secrets worth protecting.
What’s a Trade Secret
Trade secrets enjoy strong legal protections, and the importance of trade secrets is growing. Under federal law and the laws of most states, a trade secret is competitively valuable information that:
- Derives value from its secrecy; and
- Is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.
Trade secret law covers almost any kind of information one can imagine, provided these criteria are met. In the words of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, trade secrets include “all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information,” in practically any form or medium.
Trade Secrets Include Customer and Business Information
Trade secrets are not the exclusive domain of tech companies. Businesses in every industry gather and use information every day that can potentially be protected under trade secret law, including:
- Customer and prospect information
- Pricing, cost, and margin information
- Business plans and strategies
- Market studies and research
- Business processes
- Training materials
Imagine a competitor got its hands on a list of your customers, along with each one’s key contacts, preferences, and purchase history. Would that be damaging to your business? Such information falls squarely under trade secret law, provided appropriate steps have been taken to keep it secret.
Trade Secrets Include Technical Knowledge
With patent protection subject to increasing pressures and challenges, more businesses are looking to trade secret law to protect innovation. Protectable technical information includes, among other things:
- Product formulas
- Software code
- Technical drawings and specifications
- Research data and results
- Industrial and manufacturing processes
- Product development information
A wayward employee, vendor, or partner can quickly damage or even destroy a tech business. Where appropriate measures are taken, trade secret law can provide powerful protections and remedies.
Know What You Have and How to Protect It
Most businesses have actual or potential trade secrets. In many cases, trade secrets—whether classifiable as “business” or “technical”—are among a company’s most precious assets. A trade secret attorney can help your business inventory its trade secrets and implement policies to maximize their value, help prevent devastating damage, and facilitate recovery in the event of theft of misuse.
Maxwell Goss Law represents clients in trade secret, intellectual property, and business litigation cases in Michigan and nationwide.