Causes of action generally have statutes of limitations establishing the time periods in which they must be brought.
Wait too long and your claim will be tossed out of court on limitations grounds as stale.
The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune provides a fine example of a stale claim in the trade secrets context.
According to plaintiffs' allegations, they met with representatives of PepsiCo’s Wisconsin distributors in 1981 to discuss a bottled water concept. The parties allegedly signed a confidentiality agreement.
Flash forward 25 or so years when one of the plaintiffs got thirsty and purchased a bottle of Pepsi’s Aquafina bottled water. He decided Pepsi had ripped them off and sued in Wisconsin state court for breach of the agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets. Pepsi got into the bottled water business in 1994.
Plaintiffs filed suit in 2009 and somehow they got a default judgment for $1.26 billion which Pepsi got vacated and ultimately dismissed on the grounds that the six-year (for contracts) and three-year (for trade secrets) statutes of limitations.
Plaintiffs tried to file a new suit which dismissed on the same grounds.
Those rulings were affirmed by a Wisconsin appeals court which ruled that the plaintiffs were not reasonably diligent and should have known of the existence of Aquafina well before 2007.
Yet another example of how you cannot slumber on your rights.