Saving Trade Secret Disclosures on the Internet Through Sequential Preservation

2007Trade Secret

Elizabeth A. Rowe

When, for instance, an employee discloses an employer’s trade secrets to the public over the Internet, does our current trade secret framework appropriately address the consequences of that disclosure? What ought to be the rule which governs whether the trade secret owner has lost not only the protection status for the secret, but any remedies against use by third parties? Should the ease with which the Internet permits instant and mass disclosure of secrets be taken into consideration in assessing the fairness of a rule which calls for immediate loss of the trade secret upon disclosure? The power of the Internet has added complexity to the archetypal two person misappropriation framework traditionally encountered in trade secret law. Misappropriation claims often arise in an employment context, for instance, where an employee leaves for new employment with a competitor and takes the former employer’s trade secrets. The employer, or trade secret owner, can state misappropriation claims against the former employee and often the new employer. In the case of an Internet disclosure, however, the current law suggests that there is no claim against third parties who discover the information, and thus no feasible way to contain the dissemination of the trade secret.

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