Trade secrets are a form of Intellectual Property which provide an alternative to patent or copyright protection. According to the California Trade Secrets Act, or the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Civil Code Section 3426-3426.11, trade secret means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that derives actual or potential independent economic value from not being generally known by the public or to other individuals who could obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. Actual or threatened misappropriation may be enjoined if any use of this information by an unauthorized user violates fair use laws. This includes acquisition of the trade secret by a person who knows the trade secret was acquired through improper means, or use of the trade secret by a person who knows it was acquired through improper means. Trade secrets are only valuable if the owner of the invention or the business making the invention can maintain their secrecy.
In order to establish and maintain the trade secret nature of confidential and proprietary information, certain steps must be taken to prevent the disclosure of the information. If these steps are taken, a trade secret can last forever. However, failure to take the steps necessary to maintain a trade secret will result in the permanent loss of trade secret protection.
For more information on trade secrets and how to establish and maintain them, please contact our office.