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As a business owner, your success has likely hinged on your ability to think innovatively and create strategies that resulted in your company pulling ahead. Your ideas certainly played a pivotal role in ensuring that your business continued to grow and compete with other companies in your field. In order to remain competitive, you undoubtedly took precautions to protect your trade secrets.

These precautions may have included having employees sign non-disclosure or non-compete agreements in hopes of ensuring that they did not spill your secrets to competitors or other entities. Unfortunately, some of those parties may have chosen to disregard those agreements or otherwise misappropriate your intellectual property. Luckily, due to the Defend Trade Secrets Act, you have greater options for addressing such violations.

Improvements to the Economic Espionage Act

Though your secrets had some protections under the Economic Espionage Act, the Defend Trade Secrets Act now allows for federal protections of trade secrets. This additional protection allows for your intellectual property — including trademarks, patents and copyrights — to gain recognition under federal law. The EEA had potential for jurisdictional complications and state-to-state variances when it came to intellectual property protection. With the DTSA, you could take civil action on a federal level in order to seek justice for misappropriations regarding your trade secrets.

Trade secret definition

Under the DTSA, the definition of trade secrets goes on to include a broader spectrum of intellectual property than that covered under the EEA. Your business-related plans, patterns, program devices, codes, techniques and a variety of other intellectual property has protection under the DTSA. Additionally, these secrets have protection regardless of whether you store them physically, electronically, graphically, in writing or photographically. For all intents and purposes, information stored in your mind could have protection.


The misappropriations for which you could potentially seek legal action include:

  • An individual taking improper means to gain access to a trade secret for which he or she did not have permission to access
  • An individual disclosing or using a trade secret while not knowing it was a trade secret or without knowing it was obtained through improper means

Improper means may include theft, bribery, espionage, misrepresentation or breach of duty.

Handling misappropriation

When someone misappropriates your trade secrets, you may feel a particular sense of violation. Because you will certainly want to protect your business, you may wish to consider seeking justice by taking legal action against the parties suspected of such unjust actions.