Houston has long been the home of entrepreneurs in the Southwest. Businesses in varied sectors, including energy, contractors and trades, hospitality services, and IT, to mention a few, have developed seizures and strategies to carve out success in a competitive market. Texas joined the majority of states adopting the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which protects information and processes developed and kept by a company to give it a “leg up” on the competition. This differential advantage helps determine which businesses succeed, and which businesses may fail. If business people and companies keep such information confidential, then they may seek to enjoin (stopping activity by court order) a former key employee, manager, or business partner from using that valuable trade secret for him or herself, as a competitor, or take it to a business rival. Typically, information such as customer lists, contract pricing information, procedures, and financial information/space profit margins are critical to reverse engineer the success of a business. If this information becomes readily available to competitors or others in the company, it may risk a business’ leadership position in the marketplace. While the Bayou city welcomes the world, it’s business leaders fiercely guard and protect what they have built.
If you are looking to protect business trade secrets, or are faced with litigation regarding trade secrets, have the following information ready prior to meeting with our trade secret attorneys:
- Identify the trade secrets claimed by the business, and show that it was not derived from publicly available information. The mere fact that a company is known or may be found on Google does not obviate the fact that decision-makers and negotiations are protected.
- Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) or Confidentiality Agreements (CA). To the extent the business required nondisclosure agreements to be executed by third parties, employees, or management, a copy of those agreements are important to determine whether trade secrets have been properly identified.
- Server and file access. While most businesses today keep confidential information on servers, you should be able to identify whether the server had bifurcations with different levels of access. You will be asked about the hierarchical structure of the business server, and who had access to each level of that server. The more people that access to the higher confidential information, the less likely information may be protected. However, this is a fact dependent inquiry.
- If claims are made that the information protected is publicly available (rather than being derived from various pieces of public information, which may be protected), such information would also be helpful in our evaluation.