Contrary to popular belief — especially among business owners — trade secrets are not only found in top secret, highly-secure research labs. Rather, almost every business possesses trade secrets, regardless of whether the business is small, medium or large.
A trade secret is anything that is:
- Not generally known or readily accessible to the relevant business circles or to the public;
- Gives some sort of potential or actual economic benefit to its owner where the benefit derives from the fact that the thing is not generally known, and not just from the value of the thing itself; and
- Is subject to “reasonable steps,” depending on the specific circumstances, to keep it secret.
Historically, trade secrets, if even considered, were treated as an afterthought. If there was some sort of non-disclosure agreement on file somewhere, companies were satisfied and turned their attention to patents, copyrights, and designs.
This attitude is changing for a number of reasons.