September 4, 2012 Comments Off on ARE YOU PROTECTING YOUR TRADE SECRETS?

All businesses rely on proprietary information that is valuable specifically because it provides an economic advantage over competitors. Businesses in Arizona can protect that information under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act to prevent employees and/or competitors from, in effect, stealing it and using for financial gain or a competitive edge.

As a smart business person, you already know that you rely on valuable proprietary information in running your business. But you may not be protecting all of your proprietary trade secrets. Why? Because virtually any information can be protected as a trade secret if it is (1) valuable in a business or trade specifically because it is not generally known to others, and (2) kept secret by reasonable efforts. This broad definition can include almost any formula, pattern, technique, process, method, device, or compilation.

Need some concrete examples? The most common example is the secret formula for Coca-Cola®, but the examples are many and varied. Consider these:

•   Client lists

•   Spreadsheets used for calculating bids

•   Best seller list (prior to release)

•   All research and development, including manuals, experimental studies, and testing results (and even the knowledge in an employee’s head)

•   Mathematical or scientific formulas, such as the chemical formula for a medication

•   Recipes for many food products, such as cookies, soup, salad dressing

•   Formulas for consumer products, such as toothpaste or mouthwash

•   Formula for WD-40® (a silicon-based lubricant)

•   Processes used to manufacture products made with Teflon®

•   Techniques used on a lathe to manufacture replacement parts for airplanes

•   Financial formulas used to estimate return on investment or profit margin

•   Financial information and statements

•   Sale performance information

•   Market research

The important thing is that the information have value to the business specifically because it is not known to others (and the business took reasonable steps to protect the secrecy of the information). For more on trade secrets, see a discussion of Arizona’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act here.

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