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On protecting your trade secrets

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

With today's rapidly advancing technologies, it is not uncommon for a product, whether it is a physical object or even software to be obsolete by the time it hits the market. Business is as competitive as ever, and it is not uncommon for employees in one industry to switch companies as job offers with better wages and benefits entice workers to jump to the other side. So how does a company protect their trade secrets?

The laws are varied and constantly evolving. In 1979, the United States enacted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act in an effort to help protect companies from ex-employees sharing intangible trade secrets. In 1996, they added the Economic Espionage Act.

Despite their efforts, trade secrets changing hands still appears to be a growing problem. Fifteen years ago, there were 631 cases of litigation involving trade secrets; by 2015, this number had risen to nearly three thousand cases.

One of the best ways, albeit not always easy, is to know your employees. Know which employees have access to specific and sensitive information. Know how the employees interact with not only each other, but with outside business partners as well. Keep your employees informed of the laws and the company's rights to have their information protected. And if information gets leaked, study how and why, and take protective measures to assure that it does not happen again.

These suggestions should begin before an employee is even hired. During the interviewing and hiring process, explain the rules to potential workers and make certain that they are well aware of their role in the company, if hired. Include all the rules and procedures in employment contracts to protect yourself legally if an issue occurs. Maintain training and educating of your employees to ensure that they stay on the up and up. By following this advice, you can help protect your company's valuable trade secrets from getting out to your competition.

Source: American Bar Association, "8 must-dos to protect your trade secrets," Accessed April 17, 2017

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