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The IP Gal
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What is a Trade Secret?
A trade secret is any process, design, formula, or method, not generally known or ascertainable, used by a business to obtain an economic advantage over competitors. Generally trade secrets have to do with the production of goods, like a machine, or a formula for the production of an item. However, other types of trade secrets can be business methods, plans, or forecasts, R&D information, cost information, pricing information, marketing plans, purchasing information, business relationships, overhead information, manuals, notebooks, computer programs, repair methods or techniques, machine processes, ingredients used to manufacture an item, and so on.  Unlike a patent, the owner of a trade secret is not granted exclusivity to the information, but rather is only protected against improper acquisition or the use of the information. As a result, others may discover a trade secret by any fair means.
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act ("UTSA") defines a trade secret as: information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to or readily ascertainable through appropriate means by other persons who might obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
The UTSA has been enacted, in one form or another, by 47 states and the District of Columbia. Prior to the development of the UTSA, improper use or disclosure of a trade secret was traditionally a common law tort.
There are three essential elements to a trade secret claim: (1) The subject matter involved must qualify for trade secret protection; it must be the type of information trade secret was intended to protect, and it must not be generally known. (2) The holder of the trade secret must establish that reasonable precautions were taken to prevent disclosure of the secret information. (3) The trade secret holder must prove that the information was wrongfully acquired by another; that the information was misappropriated.
Misappropriation occurs when the accused party obtained the trade secret through improper means, or through a breach of confidence. It is not unlawful to obtain trade secret information through independent discovery, reverse engineering, and inadvertent disclosure resulting from the trade secret holder's failure to take reasonable protective measures.  The misappropriation of trade secrets is considered a form of unfair competition, and is discussed in the Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition.
Protection of Trade Secrets
Owners of trade secrets must institute special measures for protecting the information. Written documents outlining the policy  regarding trade secret protection will emphasize such information is confidential and guide both employees and contractors in identifying and protecting trade  secrets. These types of documents will also be an asset in the event of litigation. Confidential documents should be labeled as such, and include remarks that disclosure is prohibited. Confidential documents should also be located in a secure location with restricted access to such information. Legal protections that can be taken include non disclosure agreements, non compete clauses signed by employees in exchange for the opportunity to work for the company.
Unlike patents, trade secrets do not expire after a certain period of time.  Trade secret protection will continue on indefinitely until public disclosure of the secret occurs. Furthermore,  where patent law requires public disclosure of the means to reproduce an invention in exchange for a limited monopoly over such invention.  Trade secret law requires that the information be kept confidential. Therefore, owners or inventors must choose between patent or trade secret protection; the same invention cannot be protected by both simultaneously.
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Jelli, the social radio platform, has been awarded a patent on it’s concept of user-controlled broadcasting.   The patent, entitled: Social Broadcasting User Experience, describes a variety of methods where the participating audience is able to select and personalize their broadcast music experience.
 
The abstract of the patent describes it as: “A method of providing user participation in a social broadcast environment. A network communication is received from a user of a broadcast that includes a preference data indicating a preference of the user that a promoted content be included in the broadcast. Via a responsive network communication, a feedback data is provided to the user that includes a predicted future time at which the promoted content may be included in the broadcast.”
 
Jelli is a social radio platform that combines the reach of radio with the engagement of the web.  “Jelli is 100% user-controlled radio, enabling users to take over a radio station using their web browsers. Leveraging the power of the web to reinvent traditional broadcasting, Jelli empowers the community to interact with a radio broadcast in real-time and determine dynamically what plays on the air.” (Source: Jelli.com).  More than 175 radio stations across the United States and internationally have deployed the Jelli platform.
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