Key Harrington Barnes, PC

Businesses must understand trade secrets

Texas business owners interested in protecting their intellectual property may find it helpful to learn more about trade secrets. In general, any business information that is of value, isn't public knowledge and is protected by measures that maintain confidentiality can be considered a trade secret. Trade secrets are partially valuable because the businesses that hold them are the only ones with the knowledge, and nearly all states have enacted some form of protection. Most states derive their trade secret laws from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act of 1970, although some have modified these terms.

Analysts say that every company maintains some trade secrets. This kind of information may include data like customer lists or information about new technologies, but it can also comprise things like processes, formulas, patterns and methods.

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act prohibits practices like misappropriation, or the unfair and improper acquisition and use of a secret. It also institutes mechanisms for damages, royalties and injunctions against violators. Committing intentional acts of misappropriation with ill intent could render a violator liable for legal fees as well as damages and royalties. Most companies rely on confidentiality agreements to provide protection, but these are often breached and result in lawsuits.

Intellectual property laws vary, so many companies rely on extrajudicial tools to keep their data safe. Non-compete contracts and other agreements can define exactly what employees, business partners and others who may gain access to sensitive information can and can't do with the data. These agreements have to be drafted properly to have the intended effect, however, and an attorney can be of assistance in this regard.

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