Trade Secret Law - Overview
Trade secret law is a branch of intellectual property law that is concerned with the protection of proprietary information against unauthorized commercial use by others. In the United States, misappropriation of trade secrets is forbidden by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) and the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.
Unlike other forms of intellectual property such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks, organizations cannot register their trade secrets with the government to protect proprietary information. The only way to ensure protection of a trade secret is to keep the information confidential. Lawyers practicing trade secret law help clients protect secret and proprietary information and litigate misappropriation of trade secrets.
Trade Secret Law – Job Responsibilities
Trade secret lawyers help clients navigate the landscape of trade secret enforcement and litigation on behalf plaintiffs and defendants. Attorneys help to protect a client’s trade secrets through licensing agreements, non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, and non-competition agreements. Attorneys also handle litigation relating to the misuse, misapplication or theft of trade secrets, including claims of unfair competition, unfair solicitation and violation of non-competition agreements. Attorneys may file a lawsuit or seek a restraining order or preliminary injunction against former employees and competitors who seek to misappropriate a company’s trade secrets.
Why Trade Secret Law Is Hot
Trade secrets are one of an organization’s most important assets. Today’s competitive business landscape has placed a company’s trade secrets - such as product formulations, customer lists and manufacturing processes - at risk of theft by employees, business partners and competitors. For example, the booming oil industry is fueling trade secrets litigation within the domestic energy industry, where companies are increasingly suing one another for raiding each other's work force. Lawsuits in other industries are also increasing as companies claim that their top workers are being unlawfully swiped by rivals, either for their talent, their secrets or both.
Since trade secrets provide a company with a competitive advantage in the marketplace, a company must be able to operate profitably without having their trade secrets compromised. Lawyers practicing trade secret law play an important role in helping clients protect secret and proprietary information and enforcing trade secret laws.
Education and Background
In addition to a law degree, a background in science, engineering or technology is helpful in understanding and protecting a client’s secret technologies, chemical formulas, manufacturing processes and other secret information. For example, a lawyer with a chemistry degree may lend his talents to pharmaceutical companies to help protect their medicinal formulas. Lawyers with engineering backgrounds can may be in a better position to understand and protect a client's manufacturing processes.