The intellectual property rights we have discussed so far provide the owners of that property to restrict usage of the patent, trademark or copyright to their owners use. Trade secrets are quite different. Trade secret law was developed to provide protection for important business information that cannot be protected any other way. It allows the owner of the information to prevent others from making use of that information. (California Business Litigation, CEB, 2018, sect. 4.1)
The term “trade secret” generally applies to information gained by the business and maintained as confidential, something that has value to the business precisely because it is not generally known. (USPTO, Trade Secrets Policy) Some examples include a formula, compilation or technique. (see Uniform Trade Secrets Act section 1.4) One of the most common examples is a customer list, that is, information about the business’ client base that has been compiled by the business itself. If such information was shared with competitors it could do tremendous financial damage.
Trade secrets aren’t registered anywhere. For many years they were strictly a matter of common law. They are now governed by three sets of laws: the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), the state version of that act, and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act.
California is one of the many states that has adopted the UTSA. The text of the California Trade Secrets Act can be found at CA Civil Code sections 3426 – 3426.11. Both the UTSA and the California Trade Secrets Act provide for remedies which include injunction, damages and awarding attorney fees in conjunction with protecting the secrets.
The Defend Trade Secrets Act was enacted in 1996. (18 USC 1836 et sec) The act provides for a Federal civil cause of action for misappropriated trade secrets used in interstate or international commerce. It defines misappropriation as acquisition of the secret via improper means or conspiring to obtain through improper means (18 USC 1836(b)(2)(ii)(IV). It provides remedies for misappropriations such as injunction and damages for actual loss and unjust enrichment.
The Centauri Law Group can assist you with all manner of Intellectual Property litigation as well as registration of trademarks and copyrights. We are also available to draft all manner of agreements pursuant to protecting your Intellectual Property.