Fort Lauderdale Trade Secrets Attorney
Unlike a patent, trademark, copyright or domain name, a trade secret is not registered with a regulating body in order to prevent someone else from using it. So what is a trade secret? Can a trade secret give rise to a patent, trademark or copyright?
What is a trade secret?
A trade secret is confidential information that:
- Is not generally known to the public;
- Confers some sort of economic benefit on its holder; and
- Is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.
Examples of trade secrets include customer lists, formulas and business methods. Unlike patents, trade secrets are protected indefinitely. But that does not mean your trade secret will endure forever.
How do I protect my trade secret?
The law pertaining to trade secrets varies from state to state. Florida is one of the many states that has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which provides a mechanism for relief if someone steals your trade secret.
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act forbids third parties from misappropriating a trade secret from its holder. Misappropriation means:
- Acquiring someone’s trade secret when you know or have reason to know that the secret was acquired by improper means; or
- Disclosing or using a trade secret without express or implied consent, when the person who discloses or uses the secret:
- Used improper means to acquire knowledge of the secret; or
- At the time of the disclosure or use, knew or had to reason to know the knowledge was derived from someone who utilized improper means to acquire it, acquired under circumstances where he had a duty to maintain its secrecy, or derived from someone who had a duty to maintain its secrecy.
While misappropriation is illegal, the holder of a trade secret cannot prevent a third party from independently conceiving and using that secret. Thus, if one company does business in a certain way and is protecting that method as a trade secret, but then a second company independently decides to conduct its business using that same method, it is not a misappropriation.
Common Mistakes Regarding Trade Secrets
Here are five common mistakes that companies make related to their ideas and inventions, as well as what constitutes a trade secret:
- My company hired contractors to write software code. This is a work for hire and my company owns the code.
- I looked on the USPTO website and did not find anyone who has registered the exact same trademark, which means my mark is okay to use.
- I am the exclusive U.S. distributor for a product that I import from a foreign manufacturer. Since no one else sells the product here I can get a patent on it.
- I can protect my idea or invention as a trade secret without obtaining a patent, trademark or copyright.
- My company is going to wait to file for a patent on our new product until we show a profit.
Not every invention or idea can survive as a trade secret. In fact, your business method, formula or other trade secret might be eligible for patent, trademark or copyright protection. Contact me today at (954) 812-0660 to discuss how best to protect your inventions and ideas.