Trade secrets are a vitally important part of many businesses. While patents get a lot of love (and rightfully so), it's often the special something that trade secrets represent that can set a company apart. Companies take great measures to try and keep their trade secrets protected, but it's difficult to maintain absolute security over long periods of time; as much as businesses might forestall it, there's a chance that you may be a victim of IP theft. And to this point, trying to take legal action against trade secret theft has been difficult due to a lack of comprehensive federal law. But with a new measure passed into law, protecting those trade secrets in court should prove easier.
President Obama signed into law last week the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016. The bill is significant in that it adds a federal private civil cause of action for trade secret theft, offering additional recourse for wronged parties in addition to criminal penalties. Having a federal law on the books could also help in cases where trade secrets have moved across state lines, as current individual state laws involving trade secrets are inconsistent. Another noteworthy feature of the act is a provision for the civil seizure of property that might facilitate the dissemination of trade secrets while the case is ongoing.
While this law represents a positive step in maintaining intellectual property rights, the true measure of its impact could be in its financial benefits. Trade secret theft costs businesses hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and while the law likely won't curtail trade secret theft entirely, any reduction in money lost to theft is a positive for American businesses. Businesses can also be relieved that the new law doesn't require registration for trade secrets in order to pursue legal action as law regarding other IP does. But having a new federal law on the books isn't a reason for companies to relax, knowing that they have recourse against potential thieves. The best outcome for any business is to stay out of court altogether, and that means continuing to ealously guard their trade secrets with lock-and-key or digital security and ironclad non-disclosure agreements for employees.
You can read the full text of the bill here.