How to Determine If Your Business
has Protectable Trade Secrets

Nearly 1,400 new trade secret cases were filed each year in federal courts across the United States from 2017 to 2019. As a business, your trade secrets give you an economic value over your competitors. Trade secrets can range from methods and techniques to patterns, devices, processes, and programs. If you're involved in a trade secret dispute, it is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable California commercial litigation attorney for proper guidance.

Attorney David Schwartz provides comprehensive legal guidance and strong representation to business owners involved with litigation surrounding trade secrets. Whether you are considering filing a lawsuit or defending yourself against a trade secret lawsuit, Mr. Schwartz can examine your unique situation and discuss your possible options. The Law Offices of David H. Schwartz is proud to serve individuals and businesses throughout San Francisco, Santa Clara, Oakland, San Mateo, Alameda County, and the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

What is a "Trade Secret?"

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), trade secrets can be described as any confidential information that gives a business, company, or organization an economic advantage over their competitors. By virtue of not being general knowledge, the trade secret informative gives your business an actual or potential independent economic value or advantage.

What Qualifies As A Trade Secret?

As mentioned above, trade secrets come in all shapes and sizes, including but not limited to, techniques, ingredients, algorithms, devices, formulas, patterns, methods, procedures, programs, processes, and compilations used by a business for its operations. These trade secrets are not known to people outside of the business and are considered a crucial element to success that provides the company or business with economic value over its competitors.

Examples of Trade Secrets

Some popular examples of trade secrets include:

  • The Google search algorithm
  • Coca-Cola's recipe
  • The formula for WD-40
  • The secret ingredients for KFC's original recipe
  • McDonald's Big Mac special sauce
  • The New York Times bestseller list

All these trade secrets provide the owners with a competitive value or advantage within the free market.

California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act ("UTSA")

Under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act, any common, every-day piece of information that a business or company takes adequate or reasonable measures to maintain its secrecy may be considered a trade secret. California courts also recognize valuable pieces of information that are kept undisclosed as a trade secret (Civil Code sections 3426.1-3426.11).

What is Considered Trade Secret Misappropriation?

According to Civil Code section 3426.1 of the UTSA, trade secret misappropriation is any misuse that occurs when:

  • A trade secret is obtained through inappropriate means, such as bribery, theft, espionage, misrepresentation, or breach of duty to maintain secrecy.
  • A trade secret is disclosed or used without the consent of the owner.

Former Employee Provision

Additionally, trade secret misappropriation doesn't only occur when a trade secret is physically stolen. Misappropriation may occur due to the memory of a former employee.

Under the UTSA, a company isn't required to prove that trade secret information was physically taken or stolen by its former employee. To show that a misappropriation occurred, the company or employer only needs to demonstrate that the former employee used or disclosed the contents of their memories with regards to the trade secret.

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Trade Secrets

Businesses and employers can further protect trade secret information by taking the following measures:

  • Protect confidential business information and trade secrets using contractual measures
  • Create agreements, procedures, records, and policies to establish and document the protection process
  • Establish electronic and physical security and confidentiality measures
  • Identify and prioritize trade secret weaknesses
  • Implement policies concerning the use of the company's internet, e-mail system, and electronic storage devices to help protect trade secret and prevent misappropriation
  • Remind employees about their contractual obligations to maintain the secrecy of confidential information and avoid revealing trade secrets
  • Set up an information protection team for your business and its trade secret information
  • Take adequate measures to keep the trade secrets and confidential business information in a secure location
  • Take proactive actions and continually improve protection policies and procedures
  • Institute a legal action plan for pursuing or defending yourself and/or your business against claims and litigations involving trade secret misappropriation

Hire an Experienced Business Litigation Attorney

Trade secret litigation in California often involves a lot of complex procedures. If you are trying to file or defend yourself or your business against a trade secret misappropriation claim, you need to retain a knowledgeable California commercial litigation attorney immediately to protect your rights.

Attorney David H. Schwartz has been handling legal matters involving trade secret misappropriation for more than 45 years. Mr. Schwartz will review every aspect of your case, conduct a thorough, private investigation, and gather all of the necessary evidence in pursuit of a favorable outcome. 

As your legal counsel, he will evaluate your unique situation and determine the best legal strategy to help you move forward. Using his extensive experience, Attorney David H. Schwartz can help protect your business and take action against those who have stolen your trade secrets, and help defend those in need against false trade secret misappropriation claims. He will fight vigorously on your side to protect your rights and your business.

Contact the Law Offices of David H. Schwartz today to schedule a one-on-one consultation with an experienced California business litigation attorney. Attorney David H. Schwartz can offer you the comprehensive legal guidance and advocacy you need to navigate key decisions. Mr. Schwartz proudly serves clients throughout San Francisco, Santa Clara, Oakland, San Mateo, Alameda County, and the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Get in touch today for help.


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