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Looking at state, federal trade secret protection law

For businesses, protecting valuable business information is important in order to ensure competitors are not allowed to unjustly benefit from the business’ innovation and hard work. There are a variety of tools businesses can use to protect valuable information from competitors. Some of these protections are more formal, such as restrictive covenants and intellectual property protections like patents. Some of the available protections are less formal, like trade secrets.

A trade secret is any valuable information a business attempts to keep hidden from public view in order to benefit from that information. Trade secrets are informal in that there is no formal process required to create them; they are created by virtue of being valuable to the business and by the business’ efforts to keep them private. 

Trade secrets are threatened when their secrecy is compromised by misappropriation. When this happens, a business has the right to enforce the trade secret in court. Businesses can do this under both state and federal law.

Wisconsin’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act provides that it is illegal to misappropriate or threaten to misappropriate trade secrets, whether by knowingly acquiring them through improper means or by disclosing or using them without consent after having improperly acquired them or by acquiring them with the obligation to maintain their secrecy or limit their use.

Courts are able to grant certain remedies for trade secret misappropriation, including injunctive relief and damages. These remedies include injunctive relief, which involves ordering the defendant to cease use or disclosure of the trade secret. Damages, another possible remedy, include both actual loss caused by trade secret misappropriation and unjust enrichment, where appropriate. In some cases, damages may be awarded as royalty fees.

In our next post, we’ll take a brief look at federal trade secret law, and the importance of working with an experienced attorney to protect trade secrets.

Source: Wisconsin Statutes, Wisconsin Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Section 134.90

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