While it seems like common sense, for something to be a trade secret it must actually be secret. Rogers Indus. Prods. v. HF Rubber Machinery (Ohio Ct. App. 7/21/10) [pdf] serves as a good illustration. Rogers alleged that the various defendants had used confidential information about its tire curing press to copy the unique design of its system. Rogers’s problem was that it had publicly disclosed its press design in a patent application before the alleged trade secret theft. The court concluded there is no trade secret protection for confidential information that is disclosed in a published patent application, but that a factual issue existed as to whether the patent application disclosed the specific trade secret at issue.
Aside from not publishing trade secrets in patent applications (or other public documents), what are some of the other things your company should be doing to protect its trade secrets?
- Limited access on a need-to-know basis.
- Documents kept under lock and key.
- Password-protected data files.
- Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements for anyone with knowledge or access.
- Lawsuits to recover stolen or misused secrets.