The owner of a trade secret controls access to the trade secret.  By keeping it secret, he or she hinders the independent invention of the trade secret and makes it more difficult for another person to duplicate the trade secret and compete with the trade secret owner.  A trade secret is not a monopoly like that granted to a patent owner by the government, but it can be the equivalent of a monopoly if no one else can figure out what it is and duplicate it.  

Unlike other forms of intellectual property, however, the owner of a trade secret cannot block another person from using the same trade secret if that person independently develops the trade secret, or if the owner allows the trade secret to become public..  The owner may have a cause of action against the person or persons if that person stole the trade secret or acquired it from an employee of the owner.  Employee agreements limiting an employee's use of his or her knowledge of trade secrets is very important in this area, as are efforts on the owner's part to limit access to those persons in his or her company who have a need to know about and use the trade secret.

Law Offices of Douglas Clark Hollmann

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