Trade Secrets Generally
A Trade Secret is non-public classified or undisclosed information specifically defined and protected under both federal and state law. Trade Secret protection is also one of the very few avenues which allow ideas to be protectable in their capacity as a tangible expression. A popular example of a Trade Secret is the formula for Coca-Cola.
Federal Trade Secret Protection
Trade Secrets are federally protected under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, specifically Title 18, Chapter 90, which defines Trade Secrets to include all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information, including patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes, whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing if:
- (A) the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and
- (B) the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by, the public.
Virginia Trade Secret Protection
Trade Secrets are also usually protected under state law and differ slightly among each state. For example, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chapter 26 of the Virginia Code, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, grants state protection over Virginia Trade Secrets and defines Trade Secrets to include information, including but not limited to, a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:
- Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and
- Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
It is extremely important to consult an attorney pertaining to Trade Secret rights as not taking the correct precautionary steps in protecting a Trade Secret may and can relatively easily result in the loss of protection. This may mean not simply the loss of any derived compensation of the Trade Secret but also the loss of any intellectual property rights in general.
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