Trade secrets are intellectual property (IP) rights on confidential information which may be sold or licensed.
In general, to qualify as a trade secret, the information must be:
- commercially valuable because it is secret,
- be known only to a limited group of persons, and
- be subject to reasonable steps taken by the rightful holder of the information to keep it secret, including the use of confidentiality agreements for business partners and employees.
The unauthorized acquisition, use or disclosure of such secret information in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices by others is regarded as an unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret protection.
What kind of information is protected by trade secrets?
In general, any confidential business information which provides an enterprise a competitive edge and is unknown to others may be protected as a trade secret. Trade secrets encompass both technical information, such as information concerning manufacturing processes, pharmaceutical test data, designs and drawings of computer programs, and commercial information, such as distribution methods, list of suppliers and clients, and advertising strategies.
A trade secret may be also made up of a combination of elements, each of which by itself is in the public domain, but where the combination, which is kept secret, provides a competitive advantage.
Other examples of information that may be protected by trade secrets include financial information, formulas and recipes and source codes.