A trade secret is not simply any piece of knowledge about a company. Broadly speaking, confidential business information that provides a competitive edge may be considered a trade secret. It is information that derives financial or economic value from not being generally known to others who could profit from it.

Examples of trade secrets can include:

  • Client lists, 1435302878_secret
  • Business plans,
  • Financial information,
  • Devices,
  • Formula,
  • Patterns,
  • Unannounced products that derive commercial value from being kept secret.

How Do I Know It’s a Trade Secret?

In order to qualify as a trade secret, a business must take reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy. The trade secret no longer exists when it becomes common knowledge. If your former employer is claiming you shared a trade secret, the employer needs to be able to show that she/he took reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy (including restricting access on a “need to know” or “need to use” basis and informing employees that it is secret). In other words, if your California employer has not protected it’s company information and/or did not inform you that the information you are receiving is confidential, it may not be considered a trade secret and a claim against you for trade secret misappropriation may not be valid.

Tech and Trade Secrets

A trade secret is a significant form of intellectual property that is increasingly the subject of lawsuits, especially in California’s vibrant tech industry. How can, you, the employee, safely move from one company to another or leave one company to start a new enterprise without incurring trade secret misappropriation claims? After all, you cannot unlearn what you have learned about working at a company, and you cannot force yourself to forget names of your employer’s contacts.

If you are not sure if something you know is a trade secret, consider what your employer said about the information, as well as whether the information was marked “secret” or “confidential,” was kept in a place with limited public access, or was the subject of a confidentiality agreement. Consult your employee handbook and training materials as well since these will often list types of information that must not be used outside the company.

Trade Secret Misappropriation

Trade secret and employee mobility differs from state to state. In California, trade secret lawsuits may include claims of trade secret identification, breach of contract, and breaches of implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing. One of the more complex issues is threatened misappropriation, which is a threat to misuse trade secrets (as manifested by words or conduct). For this claim to succeed, the evidence against you must indicate imminent misuse.

Who Owns a Trade Secret?

While employers generally own inventions created by employees, perhaps you are the rightful owner of the trade secret. California employees who create the inventions on their own time and without using employers’ materials or facilities can claim ownership to certain forms of intellectual property, including trade secrets. Our experienced team of trade secret attorneys can go over your case with you in detail, helping you prove that you actually own the secret.

What To Do If You Know Trade Secrets

Are or were you privvy to confidential or top secret information at your place of employment? Before changing jobs or sharing the information, you would be well-advised to seek legal counsel. The outcome of trade secret lawsuits depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case and the issues are often complex, employees departing from companies in order to work for or become competitors are encouraged to consult our trade secrets attorneys regarding trade secret concerns.

Businesses often rely on confidential client lists, financial info, devices, formulae and patterns to create products and services that give them an edge in the market. If your trade secret and important ideas have been hacked into by a competitor, potentially hampering your ability to earn money, we can help. Call now to talk to a trade secrets attorney and learn how you may gain compensation for the losses.

The Right Employment Law Attorney

If you have been mistreated by your employer, contact Hardin & Associates, an employment law firm with offices in Los Angeles and Orange County with experience in representing employees just like you.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by an illegal labor/employment practice, you want experience and success on your side. Contact the knowledgeable lawyers at Hardin & Associates today.

(949) 337-4810, (310) 606-2122, or (844) 615-1122

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