Trade Secrets’ Registration
ABG Intellectual Property has a deep knowledge of the issues involved in the protection of Trade Secrets, having been involved in the development of the Spanish Trade Secrets Law, as well as participating in the first case before the courts of law relating to the unlawful acquisition of trade secrets
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The trade secrets legislation requires from the person lawfully in control of the information, the adoption of measures to keep it secret. This implies the identification of its subject-matter, the individuals who participated in its creation, custody, commercialization and its legal defense when infringed by third parties.
The implementation of such an active protection system requires from the company to review its trade secrets portfolio in order to define the relevant categories of information which are susceptible of protection, and the specific measures to be adopted.
Hence, a proactive attitude is essential in order to protect a company’s trade secrets.
Based on our experience, we provide the following assistance and advice our clients:
- Identifying, within the framework of new projects, the relevant categories of confidential information to be protected, the chosen level of protection and their access policy.
- Retrospectively identifying the rest of business information eligible for protection under the trade secrets system under the company’s control.
- Registering confidential information through notarial deeds, deposits at the Intellectual Property Registry and time stamping services, in order to establish ownership, contents, scope and date of creation.
Risks of lacking a Trade Secrets Registration System
The lack of a company trade secrets protection program and, in particular, a trade secrets registration system, entails the following risks for the company and its management team:
Loss of business opportunities
There is a risk of not adequately protecting data, processes, formulas, substances, etc. that could be the starting point of inventions, creations, production methods or promising information for the company.
Consequently, the company will be unknowingly jeopardizing its secrecy and facilitating its disclosure and losing the competitive advantage conferred by its use without the competitors´ knowledge.
Non detection of unlawful acts of acquisition, use or disclosure of trade secrets
The absence of a registration system identifying the employees and suppliers in charge of the custody of the confidential information and their specific functions may cause evidentiary problems in the event of unauthorized acquisition, use or disclosure of the information.
Some examples could be the acquisition or disclosure of confidential information by employees by means of digital storage devices; unaware disclosure of trade secrets during meetings with potential customers or suppliers, access to trade secrets by competitors through technological means, etc.
Infringement of third parties rights
In the absence of a reliable registration system and the adoption of reasonable measures to preserve trade secrets, if they consist of an invention which meets the patentability requirements, they could be acquired –without the consent of the trade secret holder- by third parties who later decide to protect them under the patent system. Thus, said third party would obtain an exclusive right andit is possible that the original holder of the trade secret would not be in a position to prove its prior use.
Therefore, the legitimate holder of the trade secret could be damaged on two ways:
- it could be deprived of confidential information
- it could also be sued for infringement of a patent granted to the third party who illegitimately acquired the invention from legitimate owner and then protected it under the patent system.
The infringement of trade secrets may result in three types of civil liability:
- liability as a result of an intentional act
- negligent act and even
- good faith liability for taking advantage of a trade secret violation
The liability of legal entities for criminal offences against intellectual property, the market and consumers and private corruption is expressly established since the Spanish Criminal Code reform of 2015
Therefore, the non-adoption of reasonable measures to protect trade secrets by a legal entity could prevent it from accessing to the benefit of exemption of criminal liability in those cases where an offence is committed within the company with the aim of seizure, dissemination, disclosure or transfer of a third party’s trade secret.