Almost any size enterprise engaged in any type of business has what may qualify as trade secrets that are worthy of protection. A trade secret may be as mundane as a customer list or a certain in-house manufacturing process, but it is something that has value to that specific business. Texas has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act guidelines to protect this form of intellectual property.
IP legal experts can explain that a two-pronged test is initially employed to determine if a trade secret exists. The information, which is a term broadly defined in the UTSA statute, must derive its economic value from not being publically known, and importantly, reasonable efforts must be made to maintain its secrecy under the given circumstances. Multiple parties may share the same trade secret, but if it appears the information has become common knowledge, no intellectual property rights will attach.
Unlike other forms of intellectual property rights, trade secrets have no expiration date. As long as the reasonable precautions to protect are maintained, they could last in perpetuity. Misappropriation of a trade secret may occur if an individual obtains information improperly, betrays a confidence by revealing entrusted information or learns by mistake that which was knowingly intended to be secret. Potential remedies for misappropriation include injunctive relief, real and punitive damages and attorney’s fees where appropriate.
Much of the protection a company can provide itself regarding trade secrets comes in the form of precise IP, employment and confidentiality agreements. An intellectual property lawyer can be instrumental in drafting the documents in a manner that clearly sets out employees’ responsibilities in protecting the business’ secrets.