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Specificity is key when protecting trade secrets

Nov 11, 2021 | Trade Secrets

One of the most common mistakes businesses make when trying to protect their proprietary information is being too vague.

Failing to be specific enough when it comes to employment agreements, confidentiality clauses or enforcement actions could render them ineffective. This was the case recently for a company alleging former employees misappropriated trade secrets.

It’s all in the details

The case between Synova LLC and Mallet and Co Inc. arose when Synova hired two former Mallet employees.

The two individuals allegedly took more than one thousand internal documents to the new company and shared emails and product information with Synova.

Mallet filed a lawsuit against Synova and the former employees, securing a preliminary injunction preventing Synova from using confidential information. It also barred the employees from working with Synova or any other competitors. 

However, an appeals court blocked the injunction because it was reportedly too broad to enforce. While it included high-level descriptions of the material in question, it did not sufficiently identify the highly sensitive details.

Balancing protection with specificity

Trade secrets are protectable when parties make reasonable efforts to keep them secret. Thus, it can seem counterintuitive to fully disclose proprietary information when taking legal action to protect a trade secret.

It can also seem like a mistake to put proprietary information in documents shared with employees in case it falls into the wrong hands.

However, businesses must find the balance between specifically identifying trade secrets and keeping information confidential. Being too vague in legal paperwork can jeopardize trade secrets, as can failing to keep proprietary information secure.

In other words, people must be specific when enforcing trade secrets because parties must know what is protected. To find this balance, business owners can consult legal representation. 

Trade secrets can be the key to a business’s success. And the measures parties take to protect this information can come under scrutiny when allegations of theft or misappropriation arise. Thus, regularly reviewing trade secret policies and protections can be a valuable move for any Minnesota business.

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