Trade secrets are how companies maintain an edge in competitive fields. Protecting them may mean the difference in remaining an influence in the market or being swallowed up. When trade secrets get mentioned, you might think of secret blueprints for prototypes or, a classic example, the Coca Cola formula. In California, where the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) provides recourse for litigation, the definition of trade secrets can be broader than you think. 

Trade secrets acts as an umbrella term referring to any piece of IP that has value as a matter of secrecy. And while formulas and designs are good examples, companies, as detailed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, can consider much of their data as trade secrets: 

  • Programs 
  • Patterns 
  • Techniques 
  • Compilations 
  • Methods 
  • Processes 

This can include things like customer lists or data scrubbed from website engagement. Anything that gives a company an edge over competition they would otherwise lose if said competition gained access to it. The broad definition is designed for company protection. Litigation is not limited to physical theft either as, according to the UTSA, protections can be extended to employee memory provided there is proof that an employee divulged trade secrets either publicly or to a competitor. 

Damages can be extensive if a trade secret gets out, but you have to know what you can protect beforehand. If caught ahead of time, an injunction may be filed to keep someone with a trade secret from disclosing said information. If not, it is up to a civil case in order to recover any punitive damages or owed royalties.