Thursday, July 05, 2007, 7/05/2007 10:41:00 AM

LA Times Advice Columnist Gets Around to Advising on Trade Secrets

By Todd
Well, we've documented quite a number of trade secret analyses on this blog over the past couple years. That said, this is the first time that the analysis is being offered by an advice columnist - kind of "Dear Abby" meets the Restatement. In an apparent attempt to save on fees, this trade secret holder wrote to the LA Times' business advice columnist to figure out the world of trade secrets. Enjoy "Dear Karen"'s response.

"Dear Karen: What is a trade secret and how do I go about protecting it?"

"Answer: A trade secret is something valuable and unique that helps your business succeed against the competition. It could be almost anything, including a recipe, a formula, a manufacturing process or a customer list.California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act, civil code section 3426, contains a provision to enjoin and award money damages for violating or misappropriating a trade secret. The website of the California State Bar,, has an overview of the law (search "trade secrets"). Some trade secrets are so unusual that they will always set your firm apart, said Larry Apolzon, an intellectual property attorney and co-author of "From Edison to iPod: Protect Your Ideas and Make Money." Other things you consider trade secrets may be easily reverse engineered, or they may be logical innovations that your competitors will figure out on their own. Even so, it's a good idea to catalog anything you consider a trade secret and keep it in a secure place." You should have specific rules in place with your employees about who has access to trade secrets, and you should keep them absolutely confidential, disclosing them only on a need-to-know basis," Apolzon said. Those people who must know your trade secrets should sign confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements acknowledging their receipt of the information and promising not to misappropriate the secrets in the future. " If you get into a legal dispute, you'll have to show the courts how you protected your trade secrets by establishing security policies around them," he said."
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