Trade secrets can be among the most valuable assets a company has. By definition, a trade secret is something that must be kept confidential. Without secrecy, the document, device, or technique in question could be worthless because it is no longer a trade secret.
With all that is at stake when it comes to trade secrets and confidential information, it is vital that business owners understand how best to protect them and, alternatively, defend against accusations of having misappropriated trade secrets.
As an example of both of these perspectives, let's look at the current dispute between Waymo, a Google spinoff, and the popular ride sharing company, Uber. Waymo filed a lawsuit accusing Uber of using confidential information and trade secrets stolen by a former Waymo employee currently employed by Uber.
From Waymo's perspective, it has a lot to protect. Reports indicate the car company designed a laser sensor technology expected to significantly benefit the development of self-driving vehicle technology. Keeping that technology confidential and out of the hands of competitors is critical for Waymo's success.
From Uber's perspective, there is just as much motivation to be innovative and competitive, which explains its decision to hire a former Waymo employee. However, being accused of theft of trade secrets could have significant consequences. While Uber denies using any unlawfully obtained information, it could be forced to abandon certain elements of its own development efforts by way of a temporary or permanent injunction.
In situations similar to this one, it should be expected that the parties involved will have divergently different perspectives and explanations for what happened. And, when there is a lot on the line in terms of profit and lost profit, you should anticipate an aggressive approach from both sides.
With this in mind, we urge business owners to utilize the resources available to them to protect and defend their companies and their actions. One such resource is an attorney familiar with trade secret laws and business disputes. With legal guidance and representation, owners can take the steps necessary to protect their business without having to shift focus or time away from the business.