The State of Ohio enacted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act in 1994 to provide increased protection for the trade secrets of businesses in Ohio. It protects against the misappropriation of trade secrets and provides a variety of civil remedies that will be available to a business who can prove that their trade secrets were misappropriated. A court may enter an injunctive order prohibiting the actual or threatened misappropriation of a trade secret and the court may also award compensatory damages to the owner of a misappropriated trade secret. In addition, in extreme cases, punitive damages of up to three times the amount of compensatory damages may be awarded and reasonable attorneys' fees may also be awarded.

The new law gives a much broader meaning as to what information constitutes a trade secret. It can include a portion of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula, pattern, compilation, technique or improvement. It may also include financial information, such as business information or marketing plans. It may also even include a listing of names, addresses, or telephone numbers, particularly if customers are involved.

Essentially, trade secrets are information that companies try to keep secret to give them an economic advantage over their competitors. An example of a famous trade secret would be the formula for Coca-Cola which has been a trade secret for over 100 years. The metallurgical process for manufacturing high quality cymbals has been a secret for 300 years or more.

While the patent on a patented product has a limited life -- now 20 years -- a trade secret can last so long as it remains a secret. Within the time period permitted, a business may need to decide whether a trade secret should remain a trade secret or become patented. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. The help of an intellectual property lawyer would be invaluable in making this decision.

The attorneys at McLaughlin and McNally are used to dealing with trade secrets and can counsel businesses on what they should do in order to preserve the secret information as a protected "trade secret."