In recent posts, we have discussed the difficulty of protecting trade secrets in this age of rapidly advancing technology. It is easier than ever for an employee or contractor to digitally abscond with valuable commercial 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.
In recent posts, we have been discussing the nature of trade secrets, the importance of nondisclosure policies and agreements with employees and business partners, and the remedies provided under California law for trade-secret misappropriation. One of the reasons these issues have quickly risen to the forefront of intellectual-property protection is the explosion of technological advances.
In our competitive markets, businesses often attribute actual or future commercial success to important information or processes unknown to competitors: trade secrets. California statute defines a trade secret as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process” with “independent economic value” precisely because it is unknown outside the business due to reasonable efforts to keep it secret.
At our law firm, we advocate for clients with ownership interests in trade secrets, meaning private information confidentially held that has economic or commercial value to the owner. Think, for example, of a manufacturing technique or chemical formula. We use a variety of legal means to protect our clients' trade secrets from misappropriation by others.
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."
Speed matters. We see it in the debate over internet neutrality. No one wants to be left in the dust. In business, the need for speed is especially important in protecting trade secrets. Information zips around the world in the blink of an eye and if that information happens to include proprietary secrets, a business's financial viability could be at risk.
Never underestimate the power of inventorship. That could prove to be one moral of a story that is unfolding in a trade secret dispute in the optical industry. At the heart of the case is one telehealth company's claim that it's been the victim of trade secret theft by fast-growing glasses retailer Warby Parker.
In May of this year, the country marked the first anniversary of the enactment of the Defend Trade Secrets Act. The intent of the measure was to give companies an expanded menu of ways to protect their secrets against misappropriation by opening the door to federal court.
Last time, we mentioned that it is not always possible or desirable to obtain patent protection for valuable business information and that trade secret protection can provide a viable and even preferable alternative to patent protection in some cases. We'd like to pick back up on that thought in this post.
In our previous post, we briefly discussed some of the differences between utility and design patents. As we noted, patent protection isn’t necessarily limited to a single type of patent; in some cases, it may be desirable to obtain both a utility and a design patent on an invention.