Trade secret litigation is a difficult and intense area of trademark infringement and commercial litigation. The most common trade secret issues our Chicago business attorneys address involves the enforcement of noncompete agreements, nonsolicitation agreements and confidentiality agreements. Our commercial litigation attorney are experienced in both challenging and defending such restrictive covenant agreements by way of lawsuit and/or settlement negotiations. Trade secret litigation is often times a contentious area of business litigation. The business or employer (generally the victim of trade secret theft) usually feels angry and betrayed, so there is a certain degree of heightened hostility. Conversely, those accused of trade secret theft, generally former employees, independent contractors, or business consultants, feel unfairly accused or prosecuted and may be worried about their livelihood and ability to earn a living.
Generally speaking, misappropriation theories are alleged along with interference of contractual relations, interference with economic relations, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, trademark infringement, and often, unfair competition or unfair business practices.
Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
The business tort of misappropriation of trade secrets may be proved by demonstrating that:
The injured or damaged business or employer possessed the trade secret, and
The person accused of trade secret theft is using the business’s trade secret in breach of an agreement, confidence, or duty, as a result of discovery of business misconduct.
Business litigation involving claims for breach of contractual agreements, restrictive covenants or non-compete agreements, limiting the use of certain confidential business information, are frequently combined with trade secret claims. Additionally, a civil litigation lawsuit for misappropriation of trade secrets may be associated with a criminal prosecution under many federal and Illinois statutes. As the importance and prevalence of business or corporate espionage increases and threatens various business industries, the use of criminal prosecution has also increased.
Definition of Trade Secret
The definition of trade secret is is derived from the Restatement of Torts:
A trade secret may consist of any formula, pattern, device, or compilation of information which is used in one’s business, and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. It may be a formula for chemical compound, a process of manufacturing, treating or preserving materials, a pattern for a machine or other device, or a list of customers.