Protecting Your Business Against Trade Secret Misappropriation
Trade secrets are an important aspect of doing business, allowing companies to keep essential information private and thereby to maintain a market advantage. As a type of intellectual property, trade secrets are legally protected from misappropriation. In Kansas, a trade secret owner whose rights have been infringed upon can sue for monetary damages as well as seek an injunction to prevent further violations.
Trade secrets differ from other forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks, copyrights and patents, in that the owner doesn’t have to register them with the government to protect their rights. Information qualifies as a trade secret if it is valuable to the company due to its secrecy, if steps were taken to protect the secret and if it is only known to a select group of people. Examples of trade secrets are formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques and processes. Trade secret protection exists until the owner ceases its efforts to keep the information undisclosed.
Kansas adopted the Kansas Uniform Trade Secrets Act to prohibit the misappropriation of trade secrets and to give owners a remedy in the event their trade secrets are stolen or misused. To bring a successful case, a trade secret owner must be able to show that a trade secret exists and that the owner has taken reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy. The owner also must be able to prove either of these elements:
- The trade secret was taken by the defendant.
- The defendant disclosed the information improperly, such as by leaking the information to the press or a competitor of the trade secret owner.
There are a few situations where misappropriation claims might fail, such as when someone discovers the secret legally and independently or when information enters the public domain without a wrongful act of infringement.
An experienced business attorney can advise you on the best route to take to fully protect your trade secrets and other intellectual property rights. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or confidentiality agreement can be beneficial. It creates a confidential relationship between the trade secret owner and another person who is given access to that information, such as an employee or business partner.
Peggs Wheeler, LC in Wichita, Kansas helps businesses to protect their intellectual property, including trade secrets, and to pursue legal remedies for infringement of their rights. Call us at 316-512-7853 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.