When I was in law school, I took all the intellectual property (IP) law and international trade law courses I could cram into my busy schedule. Unfortunately, everything I learned about trade secrets I learned in two days of an introductory IP course.
But, if you think that the number of trade secret law courses out there was an accurate reflection of the importance of trade secrets to U.S. businesses and the U.S. economy, think again. Many companies rely on trade secret protection for their innovations.
Odds are you even have some products protected by trade secrets in your own home—like the Coca-Cola recipe or the compound used in WD40 or OLED display technology in a Samsung television.
Legal protection for certain business confidential information has existed in the United States since the nineteenth century, but has often been overshadowed by the more well-known forms of intellectual property—patent, trademark, and copyright.
Trade secret theft is an increasingly important issue for U.S. businesses and, as a result, the U.S. government is doing more to make sure that American innovators are not at a disadvantage in foreign markets due to inadequate trade secret protection.
I used the following resources to educate myself and would highly recommend them to U.S. businesses and others that are interested in learning more about trade secrets.
- The STOPfakes.gov IPR training module includes an introduction to trade secrets.
- The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has more trade secret information specifically designed for small and medium-sided enterprises.
- This year’s Special 301 Report released by the U.S. Trade Representative summarizes troubling trends involving trade secrets and forced technology transfer. Pages 17-19.
- This independent study from Create.org includes recommendations for companies operating in foreign countries to mitigate the risk of trade secret theft.
- The Department of Justice regularly releases summaries of major U.S. economic espionage and trade secret criminal cases.
These and other federal government resources can help you understand the importance of protecting business proprietary information to ensure that U.S. companies stay globally competitive.
ITA’s trade specialists stand ready to assemble teams of U.S. Government experts to assist U.S. companies to enforce their trade secrets and other forms of IPR in foreign markets. We can suggest strategies to evaluate IPR problems encountered abroad and will work with you to resolve problems. You can report trade barriers at STOPfakes.gov/contact.