Trade Secret Basics
Companies generally have a wealth of information that is valuable to them that, if known to their competitors, would afford those competitors an advantage in the marketplace. This information is known as trade secrets, and nearly any type of information may qualify for protection, from customer lists to product sales information, financial forecasts, and the methods by which the company conducts its business.
Moreover, the ease with which such information can be misappropriated and then disseminated via the Internet resulted in a more than 300 percent increase in acts of economic espionage from 1990 to 1995. Thus, because such intellectual capital is more important to companies than ever before and because it can be misappropriated more easily than ever before, protecting such information should be a top priority for all companies. The advantage for companies is that protecting trade secrets entails no registration or government formalities. As long as reasonable efforts are made to protect the information, it can be protected forever.
The commonly accepted definition of a trade secret is any information (including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process) that derives independent economic value, whether actual or potential, from not being known to the public or others and is