Information in the form of intellectual property and trade secrets can be the foundation of a company’s profitability. If an employee or former business partner attempts to misappropriate a trade secret, the company may need to go to court to keep from losing the value of the information.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, if the information meets the legal definition of a trade secret, the owner may have legal remedies.
Definition of a trade secret
To be a trade secret, information has to have economic value based on its being generally unknown. It must also have value to other parties if they were able to obtain the information. The owner must put forth reasonable efforts to keep the secret from becoming known.
If the company cannot show that it made reasonable efforts to keep the information secret, it loses the status and legal protection of a trade secret. Information is likewise not a trade secret anymore if it no longer has economic value to the owner or to others.
Protection of a trade secret
The owner of the trade secret may ask the court to protect it. Courts may order that the other party stop misappropriating the information and that it prevent exposure of the trade secret to the public. If necessary, the court may order the seizure of the trade secret to prevent the loss of its value.
A company may be able to estimate the actual economic losses that the misappropriation caused, and the court may order that the other party pay these damages, as well as court costs.
The court may have ordered a preliminary injunction to prevent the other party from using the trade secret during the court case, and at the end, this may become a permanent injunction.