California has something called the Uniformed Trade Secrets Act, which allows the owner of a trade secret to obtain an injunction to prevent its use and to give a monetary judgment. This Act protects against actual or threatened misappropriation. A misappropriation is when someone gets your trade secret by improper means and then uses it to compete with you. The courts have great latitude on issuing injunctions to eliminate any competitive advantage that a competitor would have obtained by getting access to your trade secret.
Do Trade Secrets Expire?
Trade secrets do not expire, as long as you keep the information confidential. However, over time, trade secrets may naturally lose their value. Technology changes and sometimes, as a result, the base of your trade secret is no longer that pertinent.
Is There A Difference Between Patents And Trade Secrets?
Patents and trade secrets are both considered intellectual property. Patents, however, require full disclosure of the process or the invention to a patent examiner to determine if there is what is considered prior art, and if the invention qualifies as a patent to issue protection. The patent lasts for a certain number of years and after the period expires, the information enters the public domain and anyone can use it. A trade secret never expires. However, if a company can reverse engineer your product that has a trade secret, they can legally do that. As long as they did not get it by improper means, they could take advantage of your trade secret by the process of reverse engineering. With a patent, reverse engineering would be an infringement.
How Might My Business Benefit From Trade Secret Protection? How Do I Begin?
A trade secret is one of the most valuable assets of your company because it gives you a competitive edge over your competitors. First, you have to be able to identify what your trade secret is. If you can articulate what your trade secret is in a few sentences, chances are you probably do not have a trade secret. The next step is to immediately take reasonable steps to make sure that it is kept confidential. You might have some employees who need to know it; have them sign confidentiality agreements. You need to protect trade secrets as soon as they exist to avoid losing the protection because they become known if you have not taken steps to protect the confidentiality of them.
When Exactly Should I Protect My Idea With The Trade Secret?
Companies need to have some kind of a system in place, from the beginning, to make sure that they recognize their trade secrets and they take the steps necessary to make sure they are not disclosed to the public. If someone infringes on your trade secret and you have to file a lawsuit against them, you are required to make a reasonable description of your trade secret in court. You do not want to get into too much specifics about it because then you lose the protection. There is a fine line in litigation, where you have to identify it with enough specificity so the court can enforce it, but without too much, where you are losing your trade secrets.
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