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Trade Secret/Unfair Competition

One of the greatest challenges faced by many companies is the tension created between the patent laws and the law of trade secrets. In simple terms, a trade secret is something that is not generally known to the public, giving the possessor of such information a competitive edge or market advantage. Patent law requires disclosure of ideas in exchange for a period in which the patentee can prevent others from using an idea, thus a conflict of philosophy is born.

A seminal case addressing the relationship of trade secret law to patent law is Stutz Motor Car v. Reebok International Ltd. In the Stutz case, we successfully defended Reebok against an allegation of trade secret misappropriation. Any trade secret rights that Stutz had were destroyed once it obtained a patent. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision and Stutz's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court failed.

Our Approach

We tailor a trade secret protection policy that meets your needs. This means, in some cases, we review the physical security of your facilities to make certain that security will withstand the requirements of trade secret law. We also help you draft non-disclosure agreements that allow you to share secrets with business partners without destroying the integrity of your trade secret rights. Our attorneys have also helped many companies develop outside submission policies that protect you from spurious allegations of unfair competition or trade secret misappropriation.

We are often asked to represent emerging high technology companies where it is critically important to provide first class proactive advice early in the life of an idea. In such instances, we help you evaluate the pros and cons of keeping a trade secret early on in the life of the idea.

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