I am taking a class on Trade Secret law, which covers the protection that states give to intellectual property that doesn’t quite measure up to full federal protection of either patent or copyright. It’s still early going, but I’ve managed to learn that trade secrets can be just about anything from lists of your best clients to the specific curve of the hull your boat company manufactures. As long as it has some value, it isn’t generally known to the public, and you tried to keep it hush-hush then it probably qualifies as a trade secret.
So far, we’ve spent a good deal of time covering customer lists that departing salesman take with them when they quit a company to start their own. There’s a valid public interest in allowing workers to have mobility when they move from job to job, but obviously companies that spend time, money, and effort studying their clientele and putting together customer lists. A key factor is the way in which those lists got out and whether the person accused of stealing a trade secret did so by “improper means.” What are improper means? A vague term, but it seems like making up fake names and backstories and planning to seduce the owner’s daughter all qualify (whether you plan on eating at Denny’s or going to IHOP like a socialist):
I love it when what I’m learning has some practical application in the entertainment media. You’d think being a law student would mean that the myriad courtroom dramas and Grisham novels in the popular culture would mean that I get that all the time. It can be pretty hard to escape the image of the lawyer. I’m not exactly sure what kind of lawyer I want to be, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind you see on Law & Order. I sometimes have a difficult time explaining to people that I have no interest in being a criminal prosecutor or defense attorney and that my interests lie more in the field of intellectual property. It’s nice when I canpoint to The Office and say, that’s the sort of case I’d like to get tangled up in.