Trade secrets are intellectual property rights that protect the technical and business information.
A trade secret is an economically valuable information not generally known and not readily ascertainable by proper means by persons who might derive economic value from the disclosure or use of the information. Reasonable efforts must be made to protect the information’s secrecy to qualify as a trade secret.
Common forms and types of trade secrets include financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, engineering, plans, formulas, designs, software programs, and software source code information. It is possible to protect the know-how of a business using both patents and trade secrets.
Ownership is established through a word, name, symbol, or device in commerce. State protection is available for qualifying words, names, symbols, or devices used in intrastate commerce. Federal protection is available for qualifying words, names, symbols, or devices used in interstate commerce.
For federal registration, advertising service in interstate commerce satisfies the use requirement. At the same time, products must generally be shipped in interstate commerce bearing or packaging bearing, the trademark to satisfy the use requirement.
A violation of a trade secret protection is referred to as misappropriation. Examples of misappropriation include acquiring information improperly, either on purposeful or by accident or mistake, using or disclosing the information of another that was obtained from the rightful owner in violation of a duty to maintain confidentiality or through theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach of inducement, or breach of duty to maintain secrecy.
Independent discovery, reverse engineering, and observing the public domain will not give rise to misappropriation.
Trade secret protection exists until the protected information is no longer protected by duties of confidentiality.