Chagrin Falls and Cleveland Business Attorneys Protect Your Company’s Trade Secrets
Helping companies in Ohio and throughout the country protect their assets
Most companies have trade secrets — valuable, proprietary information that the company uses to retain an advantage over its competitors. Trade secrets are a form of intellectual property, though they lack the formal registration required for patents, trademarks, and copyrights. They may include company formulas, commercial methods, product designs, and business practices: almost anything which gives a business a measurable “leg up.”
At Gertsburg Law, our attorneys understand how crucial trade secrets are to your business. Competitors who unfairly gain access to your proprietary information and data can be held accountable for their actions and liable for your losses. Employees who violate non-disclosure or non-compete agreements may be held accountable, too. Our Cleveland trade secrets lawyers can help your business identify, valuate, and protect its trade secrets, and if necessary, litigate trade secret disputes on behalf of business owners and operators whose companies may face irreparable damage if their confidential information becomes public knowledge.
What makes something a “trade secret,” and thus defensible in court?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark office defines trade secrets as something that “must be used in business, and give [its owner] an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.” Generally speaking, this means:
- The information is not public
- There is financial value to the holder of the trade secret
- The holder must take reasonable steps to keep the information confidential
Companies need to take “reasonable steps” to keep their trades secrets private in order to enjoy the benefits of their innovation and hard work. Chemical formulas, vendor lists, computer algorithms, launch plans— these are just a few examples of what companies need to protect in order to maintain leverage over competitors and viability in the market place. Without taking reasonable steps to keep these items confidential, they may not qualify as trade secrets. Many trade secrets are unique to a particular type of business; others can be of benefit to a wide cross-section of business. In sum, confidentiality is key to protecting your business.
Trade secret litigation
When other companies employ unscrupulous methods to obtain your proprietary information or data, our Chagrin Falls trade secrets lawyers work to determine who was involved with the unfair trade practice, and then seek to hold the offending parties liable. We use applicable federal and state laws to bring claims against companies and individuals who commit unfair practices. Such claims may permit recovery of:
- Statutory damages
- Lost profits
- Attorneys’ fees
- Punitive damages
Wrongful conduct does not have to be deliberate. Employees or competitors who acquire access to trade secrets, even though they might not have actively sought access to that information, must still follow the law. Should that person attempt to sell or use the information for his or her own gain (or to the detriment of the company), you may still be entitled to damages.
We may also seek injunctive relief to prevent the unauthorized use of any ill-gotten trade secrets.
Most state trade secret laws, including Ohio’s, are modeled on the federal Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Intentional theft of trade secrets may be a crime under both federal and state laws.
Non-disclosure agreements must be designed to protect you
Every company that has valuable trade secrets must create non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which management, employees, and independent contractors are required to sign. An NDA creates a pledge of confidentiality between the employee and the worker. Should an employee breach that confidentiality pledge, an NDA provides you with legal recourse to recoup the damages.
While a non-disclosure agreement can be tailored to your company’s specific needs, they typically:
- Identify what information is confidential
- List any exclusions
- Identify the duties of the employee to keep the information private
- Outline the length of time the employee commits to keeping the information confidential
Other provisions may apply. One key provision is where disputes will be handled. Employers may wish to have disputes heard in arbitration instead of open court for privacy reasons, or to avoid the expenses of litigation. Our team can help you with alternative dispute planning designed with your timelines and metrics in mind.
Prepare for trade secrete violations in advance with help from dedicated lawyers
At Gertsburg Law, our lawyers do more than prepare non-disclosure agreements. We explain the steps companies need to take to value and protect their trade secrets. For help protecting trade secrets, your rights, and the laws, please call 440.683.6383 or fill out our contact form to arrange an appointment with a business attorney in our Cleveland or Chagrin Falls office.