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The basics of a trade secret

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.

Businesses both small and large want to protect the information or know-how that is crucial to their financial success and sustained future. Sometimes this information is in the public sphere, but protected by law. In other situations, the information is kept secret and is maintained privately within the company. These pieces of information are called trade secrets, and they inherently hold value due to their nature of not being public. Maintaining and protecting these trade secrets are critical parts of what truly makes them "trade secrets."

So how do you go about protecting and maintaining your trade secrets? One easy step is to keep the documents, information, or digital files in a secure place, such as on a locked computer or a safe and then labeling the information "confidential." You should also limit the access to the information by only looping in employees who need to know about the trade secret (or the code or password to access the trade secret). And of course you should have nondisclosure agreements.

Now let's say you take these steps but someone still misappropriates the information. What can you do then? First you have to determine what happened. Misappropriation means the trade secret was disclosed through improper means, such as theft, bribery, or a breach of a nondisclosure agreement.

An injunction could be obtained to prevent use or further disclosure of the trade secret, or a lawsuit could lead to financial compensation paid by the misappropriating party to the plaintiff. In these cases, it is imperative that the plaintiff seek out experienced legal counsel to help them with their trade secret litigation.

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