Your trade secrets may be one of your most important assets and a central part of your corporate strategy. It is a precious piece of intellectual property that you want to keep as secure as possible.
How the law defines a trade secret
Both federal and California law consider a trade secret to be a piece of information that provides a business with an advantage. This information can be:
- Marketing information
- Manufacturing processes
However, to meet the definition of a trade secret, this piece of information, whatever it is, must have value and be known only to you and the people in your company. You have to take measures to guard it, and it should be difficult for people outside your company to find out this information.
How much is a trade secret worth?
Intellectual property is notoriously hard to value, but when that trade secret is a vital part of your business, there isn’t a high enough price. Look at some of the most famous recipes out there. Years ago, Coca-Cola’s recipe was nearly stolen, and the culprit was fined $1.5 million and sent to prison.
So how can I protect my trade secret?
Federally, the “Economic Espionage Act” makes the theft of a trade secret a felony, with expensive fines of up to $5 million and long terms in jail, up to 15 years.
California law also allows you to pursue a company using your trade secrets civilly. In fact, according to the California Trade Secrets Act, you do not need to prove that the company using your trade secret knew it was stolen, only that they should have known it was.