Confidential information, processes, formulas, techniques, and customer information are among a company’s most valuable assets. Fortunately, both Texas and federal law protect this information as trade secret, provided certain qualifications are met. Generally, to qualify for trade secret protection, information must (i) have independent economic value and (ii) be kept confidential.
Protecting trade secrets requires taking reasonable steps to maintain their secrecy. This not only furthers a company’s goal of keeping the secret, it also strengthens the case against someone who illegally reveals it. Additionally, the economic value of the trade secret information can be actual or potential. And not all trade secrets are intended to be protected forever. For example, if a company plans to patent an invention, it is only classified as a trade secret until the patent has been filed because the patent application is public information.
Trade secrets are easily misappropriated because they can usually be memorized or recorded by employees, customers, developers, or suppliers. If a competing business or disgruntled employee knows the secret, the information can be spread easily. This can have serious competitive impacts on businesses.
A company that fears its trade secrets may have been misappropriated faces decisions that it must quickly answer. These include whether to file under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act or the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act and whether to request an immediate injunction against further use. While the federal and Texas provisions are similar, each has differences that a company should consider. For example, the federal trade secrets act allows a party to seize the trade secret information in certain, rare scenarios. Businesses using the courts to protect their trade secrets must also be careful not to expose confidential information when litigating. Experienced counsel can help an aggrieved business make these decisions quickly to minimize the business impact of misappropriation.
Experienced counsel is equally important for a business or former employee being sued for misappropriation of another’s trade secret. Frequently, for example, companies sue over information that may not qualify as trade secret. Other times, a defendant’s acquisition of the information may not qualify as misappropriation. This will not necessarily stop a company that thinks it was wronged from trying to enjoin a competitor from operating while a case is ongoing. Experienced defense counsel can navigate these issues and help mitigate the impact of anti-competitive litigation.
With over 50 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Burford Perry have worked closely with businesses of all sizes to protect their confidential information. Our attorneys have worked on both sides of trade secret cases, giving us insight into how each side works. This ideology continues to serve our clientele today. If you suspect your business’ trade secrets have been misappropriated or are at risk, contact us today to see how we can help.