It may seem as though every corporation has some sort of trade secret. Examples include Coca-Cola’s “secret” recipe or the “secret” herbs and spices blend that covers KFC chicken.

However, these are more akin to advertising slogans than they are real trade secrets. Trade secrets do exist in corporate law, and it is important to understand what the law considers a secret worth protecting. According to FindLaw, protection for trade secrets exists in common law, state civil statutes and federal statutes alike.

What does the law consider a “trade secret?” 

Common examples of trade secrets include unpatented inventions, valuable non-public documents, customer information and recruiting information. This is a very broad stroke of what a trade secret may be. In reality, what is a trade secret and what is not depends on the individual situation.

Trade secrets are also different from patents. The law limits Patent protection to specific types of inventions, designs and processes. On the other hand, trade secret protection casts a much wider net. So long as a piece of information provides competitive advantage for a business, the law may consider that information a trade secret.

How can I protect my company’s trade secrets? 

The first step is to ensure that you understand what your company’s trade secrets actually are. Not every bit of your company’s information is a trade secret. It is important to run information you suspect is a trade secret through a series of tests. Namely, whether anybody knows the information outside of your company, what the exact monetary value of that information is and what the value to your competitors would be.

Often, having experts on your side during this process is necessary to separate the secrets from generic company information.