All Georgia businesses want to protect their intellectual property from competitors, but defining intellectual property can be difficult. George has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and the statute provides a usable definition of trade secrets. Unless a firm has developed a unique type of trade secret that does not fit easily into the statutory definition, the definition in the statute should suit the needs of most businesses.
Parsing the statutory definition of trade secret
The Georgia statute uses a very broad definition of trade secret. According to that statute, “trade secret” means information, without regard to form, including, but not limited to, technical or nontechnical data, a formula, a pattern, a compilation, a program, a device, a method, a technique, a drawing, a process, financial data, financial plans, product plans, or a list of actual or potential customers or suppliers which is not commonly known by or available to the public. . . .
The list of terms that may describe a trade secret is necessarily broad. The drafters of the act obviously wanted to include all types of business information that might conceivably be a protectable trade secret. The key phrase in the defining paragraph is “without regard to form.” Thus, a trade secret could be a simple paper memorandum or a complex computer code.
Not commonly known to the public
The heart of the definition lies in the end phrase in the quoted paragraph: “not commonly known to the public.” A list of customer names and addresses may lie outside the definition unless the owner of the list can demonstrate that it was compiled using extra effort and means not commonly used to obtain the data in the list.
This conclusion is buttressed by the first line in sub-paragraph 4(A): “the information derives economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use.” The information must derive economic value from being generally unknown to competitor.
Finally, many businesses overlook the last requirement. The information “. . . must be the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.” In other words, a business cannot claim trade secret protection for information that was not adequately protected from disclosure by the business.
Defining and protecting trade secrets
The definition and enforcement of protection for trade secrets can be a complex task. Any business that has concerns about the safety of its confidential information may wish to consult an experienced business attorney for advice on the methods used to create and protect confidential information.