We encounter varying degrees of confidential information throughout our lives. There is, ironically, an old rhyme that begins, “Secrets, secrets, are no fun.” That old rhyme, when it comes to trade secrets, is incorrect. Trade secrets are intellectual property rights surrounding confidential information, and are important (and fun!) for a myriad of reasons.
Has the world of trade secret law ever held your interest? Are you intrigued by trade secret protection and the economic benefits? If so, becoming a trade secret lawyer might be the path for you – and Golden Gate University can help you get there. Our Intellectual Property Law track and Intellectual Property Law Center lets students jump-start their careers.
History of Trade Secret Law
When did the theft of trade secrets come into play in the United States? Let’s analyze a few key Acts whose subject matter centers on intellectual property and how it relates to trade secrets.
Uniform Trade Secrets Act
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) came about in 1979 and was amended in 1985. The Act makes the law governing trade secrets uniform across the country.
Individuals in the United States are bound by both state and federal law, but laws between the states differ. States may be ruled by common law, statutory, or civil law, depending on what is at stake, deference may be given to these state laws. One complicating factor is that trade secret violations easily transverse state lines. For companies intended for interstate use, trade secrets laws with different information can quickly cause issues.
The UTSA moved to eliminate that problem and to date, 48 out of the 50 states have adopted the Act.
Economic Espionage Act
The Economic Espionage Act of 1966 (EEA) was signed by President Bill Clinton. It was critical in defining trade secrets, outlining their protection, and dictating their prosecution policy.
A trade secret, as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1839(3)(A),(B) (1996), has three parts: (1) information; (2) reasonable measures taken to protect the information; and (3) which derives independent economic value [actual or potential] from not being generally known.
The Act defines industrial espionage, which is the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets. The FBI notes that:
Economic Espionage is (1) whoever knowingly performs targeting or acquisition of trade secrets to (2) knowingly benefit any foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent.
The EEA makes this breach of confidence a criminal offense. The violation is possible not only domestically, but internationally.
In Defense of Trade Secrets
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, “trade secret protection confers owners the right to prevent the information lawfully within their control from being disclosed, acquired or used by others without their consent in a manner contrary to honest commercial practice.”
As an attorney in this field, you fight to ensure that trade secret owners of that intellectual property are protected. You defend the Trade Secrets Act and anything that falls under it.
Conversely, you also protect others who are being accused of economic espionage. A key example of this occurs in reverse engineering. Reverse engineering is a method or process of developing or manufacturing a known product that was discovered by working backward. It is considered legal in trade secret law because it is viewed as an independent way of learning information rather than theft.
Why GGU is Right For You If You’re Interested in Trade Secret Law
Golden Gate University’s intellectual property law career track provides unparalleled access to emerging legal issues and opportunities in a range of cutting-edge specialties. San Francisco, where we are located, is a technology capital. Our campus is steps away from top industry innovators that are changing the way the world lives and does business.
Our students build experience while learning from the nation’s most renowned faculty experts like Professor William Gallagher, who leads the Intellectual Property Law Center. A vast resource, the center hosts events, publishes the IP Law Book Review and offers many other assets to our students.
As if our specialization wasn’t enough, GGU offers coveted flexibility to our students throughout JD Flex program. This innovative program blends online coursework with on-campus sessions to provide a rich and well-rounded student experience. Each semester involves 8 weekend on-campus sessions. The remaining responsibilities are online and asynchronous, letting students complete their work on their own time within set deadlines. Students can earn a JD in four years, and have access to the institutes and partnerships that advance their careers and expand their horizons.
Interested in starting your journey? Contact our admissions office today!