A federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois recently taught a painful lesson to a business owner. The plaintiff alleged that an employee had taken information that was important and sensitive enough to the company that it qualified as a trade secret.
The Big Mac has been a ubiquitous part of U.S. culture for decades as the flagship burger of McDonald’s. Nonetheless, the same cannot be said for the European Union. The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) made this clear when it recently ruled that McDonald’s was not using the trademark in accordance with the EU Law. The ruling went into effect immediately.
At our law firm, we help clients in different industries to protect their trade secrets, meaning private commercial information that can be key to a company’s success. For example, trade secrets may include formulas, manufacturing processes, research, recipes, ingredients, customer lists and similar valuable information.
We have discussed trade secrets in some of our recent posts. A federal lawsuit alleging misappropriation of trade secrets involving the manufacturing processes of Costco dog food bags has been filed in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Missouri, reports the News Tribune in Jefferson City.
A trade secret is any information that provides the trade secret holder with economic value or a competitive advantage precisely because it is not readily known or ascertainable by the general public. Unlike patents, trademarks, and copyrights, trade secrets are not registered. Rather, it is the job of the trade-secret owner to take reasonable steps to maintain the “secret” status of the information, so that employees, contractors, members of the public or other business interests do not steal it for their own potential financial gain.
Business litigation has been making the news recently. A central focus in many of these cases has been an alleged thefts of trade secrets. One particular dispute involved ride-sharing mogul, Uber, and Waymo, the self-driving car designer. Such high-stakes incidents are believed to cause an annual $300 billion or more in collective economic losses in Kansas and Missouri companies as well as others throughout the nation.
As a business owner, you've likely encountered many challenges throughout your journey, perhaps from the startup phase all the way through to when you began turning a profit. One might say that obstacles are par for the course in business; the key is to arm yourself with resources and a strong support network so you can overcome any problems that arise in a timely and economically feasible fashion. A particular area where many Kansas and Missouri business owners run into trouble has to do with trade secrets.
In Missouri, Kansas and all other states, whistleblowers are protected by law from retaliation in the workplace when they report situations that are illegal or place others at risk. A former Uber transportation employee is a central figure in an ongoing legal battle that pertains to whistleblowing and trade secrets. Some say the man who used to work for Uber left the company as a whistleblower, stating he was not comfortable with its executive practices.