Businesses use non-public information to succeed. This information is known as a “trade secret” Examples include pricing changes, vendor identities, product formulas, customer contact information, logistics methods, supply chain information, and employee information.
Think about the cost of your information. It costs money to pay employees or advertisers to develop information. Your information is valuable to your competition.
If your information is non-public you can legally protect it, but the law requires that you take “reasonable measures” to protect your trade secrets.
If you don’t take some steps to protect your company data, a court may not protect your data. This means that if someone misappropriates your private data — such as an employee — your data no longer will be private and thus useable by others, including your competitors.
1. Identify the information that should be protected.
2. Create Procedures to Protect the information
a. Save trade secrets in password-protected computer server locations
b. Store drawings and files in cabinets with limited access
c. Mark documents with the term “CONFIDENTIAL”
How do you lose your rights? Most times, it is an employee who misuses the information.
To Do: Create a plan to protect your valuable information.
If you follow the proper steps, you can know that your competitors and departing employees will not use your data, which represents a significant investment.
Trade Secrets Accomplishments
Enforced Covenant Not to Compete
Successfully enforced Wilson’s Covenant Not to Compete and Confidentiality Agreement against a departing senior Wilson technology manager who possessed critical golf ball trade secrets. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was obtained in eight days, preventing the employee from joining our foremost competitor, Titleist. A Permanent Injunction and Judgment were issued one month later. We prevented significant, inevitable financial losses and the transfer of critical technology information to our most important competitor.
Created Trade Secret Program
The client developed proprietary software program offered through internet and mobile devices. The company also fielded many inquiries from investors and potential alliance partners about company. We recommended that the company invest in a process to disclose their valuable proprietary information.
We informed the client that if they did not use reasonable processes to protect their information that the Courts may order that the information cannot be protected against misuse by third parties.
We created a Trade Secrets Policy which is instructions to the employees as to the circumstances under which exchange of confidential information can occur.
Conducted IP Review
This company needed to ensure that its tens of thousands of hours of development time were appropriately resulting in securing legal rights. Focused this IP Review on patents (computer software and business methods) and trade secrets. The first step was to review their IP portfolio and their IP-related guidelines. The project had three key deliverables. The first was to ensure that the company has identified and protected all IP that resulted from its development efforts. The second was to create systems and procedures that will maximize and protect the IP developed in the future. The third was to educate all company IP users about the new guidelines. Drafted all the documents and executed the strategy.
Created IP Awareness System for IP Users.
The company had few proactive processes and information to manage their IP. Created a system and written information to disseminate to all IP users in the company, from engineers to marketers to General Managers. Then presented the information in a lively seminar to three different business segments. This well-received initiative reduced infringements and improved the value of the IP created by the company, thereby increasing its profitability. Topics included trademarks, patents, licensing, trade dress, trade secrets, TV and print comparative claim and testing legal standards, new ideas submissions system, the Road to Registration, contracts, litigation, counterfeit goods, attorney-client privilege, costs of IP registration, confidentiality, copyright, managing documents and international aspects.
Trade Secrets Testimonials
“You should have been their lawyer the first time [and your client would not have had this IP problem].”
– Opposing IP Counsel at large national law firm
“I have found Charlie to be well informed, attentive and insightful in his counsel to us. We have learned to rely on him as a legal expert, strategic counsel, and trusted advisor for our clients’ trademark and copyright work, and make referrals often. But perhaps our trust in Charlie is most evident in our relationship with him on behalf of [my Company] and our own IP issues. Frankly, Charlie is our “go-to” IP guy, hands down. I highly recommend him.”
– Chuck T., President, Creative Branding Consultants
“Charlie Brown is our attorney and trusted adviser. His firm CorpLaw Associates LLC attends to our overall legal issues and Charlie’s special expertise is Intellectual Property.
As a highly experienced attorney, Charlie is a true specialist in IP Law. This area is critical to the success of my company so we greatly appreciate his expertise in this area. For example, he has suggested ideas to us that will ensure that our IP portfolio is well protected.
We can count on him to support us in the many diverse areas of IP. As a sporting goods company, we really appreciate Charlie’s in-depth knowledge of the sporting goods industry. He has a business background, which has taught him the important lessons of business operations. Combining his high quality legal expertise and his interest in knowing our business goals absolutely results in better outcomes for us.
Charlie’s service ethic is extraordinary.
His work is always on-budget and on-time, with a smile. In addition, he truly cares about me as a business owner, which can be a rare trait among service providers. In my opinion, he is smart, intuitive and practical.”
– Robert B., CEO, International Sporting Goods Company
“I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your service and valuable advice over these past several years. It’s been my pleasure working with you and I hope to continue working together for years to come. I don’t know if I ever told you, but one of the things that I appreciate about CorpLaw the most is the availability of your services. You and your staff are only a phone call away and always ready to help. I’ve had experiences in the past with other attorneys who would call me back a week or two later, after my phone call to them, or not return my call at all. From talking with other business owners, I’ve been aware that this is typical. With Charlie Brown and CorpLaw I feel like I have my own legal department. It really does put my mind at ease to know that I can call you whenever I want and get the advice and help I need. That is one of the reasons I always say to you half jokingly, that you are the “president of [our company’s] legal department”. In a very real sense, you are.”
– Scott K., President, Commercial Painting Services Company