For many inventors and companies, this is a very important form of protection. However, few seem to be fully aware of it, or know how best to use it. The following is a brief illustration.
To preserve trade secret protection when dealing with others (e.g. distributors, dealers, retailers, investors, etc.), it is important to document the information being revealed by keeping copies of what is shown, and – most importantly – marking those materials prominently as confidential.
For example, a cover letter transmitting drawings should expressly state that the information is confidential; and preferably also marking the word “confidential” on every page attached to that cover letter including the drawings and any text or other attachments.
A hypothetical example, which nonetheless generally follows a published case, follows the situation where a distributor learns of a product from an inventor, and decides to have the product made himself and so avoid paying royalties to the inventor. In this example, at a very early stage before any substantial profits are made, a complaint is filed in state court for trade secret protection. Damages under a patent would, in this example, be quite small (perhaps well under 20,000 dollars), but under trade secret protection such damages can be fairly large – awards in the hundreds of thousands of dollars would not be too uncommon.
A pending patent application is often good evidence of trade secret rights. Other information may very well also constitute trade secret material.
Please feel free to contact us, at no charge or obligation, for to discuss your trade secret situation, for further details, or for cost estimates.