Global Intellectual Property Center

Trade Secrets

What are trade secrets?

Most people who enjoy an ice-cold Coca-Cola or marvel at the clarity of their big screen TV don’t spend much time thinking about how those products were made. But the companies that produce these and other popular products spend a great deal of time developing and protecting the secret recipe, formula, or manufacturing processes that make them world leaders in their fields.

What these companies all have in common is a dependence on a trade secret – a proprietary secret recipe, process, or data set that is often the basis of their business.

Why do we need trade secrets legislation?

Unlike other forms of intellectual property protections, such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights, trade secrets only have value if they remain secret. Sadly, the theft of trade secrets is increasing by individuals and even foreign governments who want to take short-cuts to success and piggyback on American innovation and creativity.

Existing federal laws to combat trade secrets theft need to be updated to help companies and individuals protect themselves and the jobs they create. At the federal level, trade secret theft has criminal penalties but lacks a civil remedy.

Trade secrets theft was once largely a local or intrastate problem; however, in the digital age it is increasingly an interstate and even international concern. Currently, 47 states have trade secrets laws that include civil penalties for such crimes. While the existing federal criminal penalty are an important tool, providing a federal civil remedy will give those confronted with such theft another option to help avoid commercial injury and the resulting loss of employment that may occur when trade secrets are ripped-off.

What action has Congress and the Administration taken on trade secrets?

Fortunately, this legislation has passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and nearly-unanimously through the U.S. House of Representatives. On May 11, 2016, President Obama signed the bill into law.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of hundreds of American companies, industry associations, think tanks, and individuals. This  rare piece of legislation is truly bi-partisan and bi-cameral in nature, and has the support of the Administration as well.

Passage of this important legislation not only helps major companies but also small entrepreneurs and inventors who may depend on their trade secret(s) for their future success. In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, it is critical the threat of trade secrets theft is met with the appropriate remedies to help ensure that American industry and worker remain at the forefront of the innovation economy.

Chamber Action on Trade Secrets

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