Preserving business information as a trade secret is the main alternative to filing a patent. Unlike the latter, a trade secret is, theoretically, protected indefinitely and doesn’t require you to publicize your invention. Of course, the downside is that while patents are heavily protected by law and give you a monopoly on their use for an extended amount of time, trade secrets can be discovered by your competitors. However, you are not defenseless in such a case. Passed in 1979, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) applies to every state except New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. 

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What Does The UTSA Protect?

Under the provisions of the UTSA, a trade secret is information: a formula, program, method, technique, or process. It can be used to produce independent economic value (actual or potential) due to the fact that it is not known publically. Simply put, it’s something that gives you an edge over the competition that they don’t know about, and that you are keeping confidential. The UTSA protects such trade secrets from misappropriation. For example, obtaining a trade secret through improper means, such as bribery, theft, espionage, and breach of duty, is considered misappropriation. However, the UTSA does not protect your trade secret if the competition discovers it independently, reverse engineers it through non-trivial efforts, licenses it, or otherwise obtains it legally.

How Does the Act Help Enforce Secrecy?

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act offers several strategies in the event that someone else learns about your  trade secret through improper means. You may be able to obtain an injunction against the party that obtained your secret. You may also be awarded damages (including both value lost due to misappropriation and unjust enrichment), and reimbursement of your attorney’s fees, if a court finds that the loss of your trade secret occurred through deliberate misappropriation. For the purposes of maintaining secrecy, the UTSA also permits the court to take action to ensure that the trade secret remains confidential, including sealing records and restricting the flow of information.

Have more questions about trade secrets and intellectual property? Ask a lawyer.

 

Get Started Protect your intellectual property Create IP documents and ask a lawyer your questions.

Get Started Protect your intellectual property Create IP documents and ask a lawyer your questions.