Under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) and California law, all individuals and entities are prohibited from using trade secrets if they "should have known" that the knowledge or material constitutes a trade secret — otherwise known as "constructive knowledge."
What Is A Trade Secret?
According to the UTSA and California Civil Code, a trade secret may be a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use.
Further, to qualify as a "trade secret" the information in question must be "the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy."
Value And Protection Of Trade Secrets
Trade secrets are often an invisible part of a person's or company's intellectual property. In California, trade secrets created by employees on company time with use of company materials automatically become IP of the company.
Protection of trade secrets does not expire or require renewal as does a patent, copyright, or trademark. It involves the use of noncompete clauses and nondisclosure agreements that can be made with employees, board members, vendors, and licensees.
Your trade secrets may be some of the most valuable, but intangible, pieces of intellectual property you own. It is imperative that you speak with an experienced attorney who is familiar with trade secret laws across the U.S. to be able to properly protect your IP and effectively prosecute those you suspect of stealing trade secrets. Your ownership rights should always be supported by a legally vetted written agreement.
Legal Action And Prosecution For Damages Related To Trade Secret Theft
There is a statute of limitations on legal actions to seek an injunction against or financial compensation from a person or entity that misappropriates or threatens to misappropriate trade secrets you own. Legal action must be brought within the statute of limitations, which begins to run following the discovery of misappropriation.
At MYERS BERSTEIN, we can help you take cost-effective and expedient legal action against any person or entity you believe to have improperly acquired your trade secret(s). According to the UTSA, improper acquisition refers to "theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy, or espionage through electronic or other means."
Recoverable monetary damages in your case may include actual losses that can be attributed to the theft and profits obtained through use of the trade secret(s). In egregious situations, we may even be able to recover attorney fees from the offender.
Weigh Your Options And Take Appropriate Action With Informed Legal Counsel
Based in Irvine, California, our lawyers often address issues specific to California trade secret laws, but California is one of many states across the U.S. that have adopted the UTSA. We can work under the unique civil code and common law of your state to address trade secret issues and protect your valuable IP under any circumstances.
Please call us at 888-415-4373 or contact us by secure email to schedule a meeting with one of our lawyers.
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