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Trade secret law provides a mechanism for protecting proprietary and sensitive business information. A trade secret, by definition, is information that has economic value and is secret. There are no formal application requirements to obtain a trade secret. Unlike patents, there are no statutory requirements that a trade secret must be novel, useful, or non-obvious, and there is no examination process. Trade secret protection arises once the appropriate steps are taken to create and maintain a valid trade secret. Trade secrets are not subject to a predefined term, and can be maintained for an indefinite period of time. A trade secret owner has the right to prevent others from misappropriating the trade secret. Misappropriation is the improper acquisition, disclosure, or use of a trade secret. However, under trade secret law, independent discovery and use of the trade secret is not a misappropriation of the trade secret, meaning that if someone reverse engineers or independently discovers the trade secret, they are free to use it. Once the public knows the secret, trade secret protection is lost.
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