Trade Secret

Trade secret litigation encompasses the misappropriation or theft of a company’s vital assets.  This is seen is when an employee or employees as a group either go to a competitor or decide to start their own business.  Rather than work hard to create their own work product, they go about improperly taking the trade secret to use for their own purposes.

WHAT IS A TRADE SECRET?

A trade secret is any property whose value comes solely from it being kept a secret.  The key is that reasonable efforts need to be made to protect this information from being disclosed to the world.  A famous example of a trade secrets is Coca-Cola’s secret formula.  Thus, in order to succeed in such a case, the trade secret must be protected, even in the office.  Having it locked up, stored on an encrypted drive or other methods of showing the company sought to protect the information is of paramount importance.

A common example of a trade secret that is alleged to be stolen often are customer lists.  In order for a customer list to be deemed a trade secret, it must be shown that by keeping such a list secret, it must provide a substantial business advantage.

REMEDIES

There are many remedies that are available in trade secret litigation.  One is actual damage.  Where actual damage is difficult to quantify, a company can seek what is called “unjust enrichment.”  Unjust enrichment looks to the measure of how the thief benefited as to extract that value out of his hands.  If this is also difficult to prove, a reasonable royalty can be charged.  Also, if it can be shown that the trade secret was taken intentionally in a willful and malicious manner, then punitive damages are available.  Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer over and above amounts set to compensate the owner of the trade secret.