Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Thursday Jun 29, 2017

One Year On: Developments in the Protection of Trade Secrets

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

U.S. businesses own an estimated $5 trillion worth of trade secrets. Their theft, involving losses in the tens or possibly hundreds of billions of dollars a year, poses a serious threat to our nation’s economy. Because the protection of trade secrets — which by their nature are not patented or publicly disclosed — is critical to the commercial viability of many U.S. businesses, Congress passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016. The law provides trade secret owners with a federal civil cause of action, rather than limiting them to state laws or criminal enforcement.

Last month, one year after enactment of the law, the USPTO convened a public symposium on “Developments in Trade Secret Protection.” The event brought together nearly 200 participants, at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria Virginia, and via live webcast to individuals and the USPTO’s four regional offices.
The symposium consisted of four panels focused on various aspects of trade secret protection. The first panel, of business economists, discussed recent trends, including how to estimate the value of trade secrets and calculate damage awards in litigation, and how calculating damages in trade secret cases differs from cases involving other forms of intellectual property.

Shira Perlmutter at Trade Secrets Symposium

Shira Perlmutter at Trade Secrets Symposium

The second panel, a group of attorneys, addressed the use of the Defend Trade Secrets Act in practice, including the provisions for ex parte seizure of stolen trade secrets. The third panel, with participants from academia, private practice, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, examined the differing ways in which other countries have implemented trade secret protection and identified the elements that make up an effective regime. The final panel brought together participants from private practice, the U.S. government, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce to role-play as a corporate legal team called on to consider enforcement options for dealing with a case of trade secret misappropriation occurring overseas.

The practical information exchanged at the symposium should help governments and trade secrets owners improve protection for this valuable form of intellectual property in the United States and abroad. In helping to take forward the federal government’s 2017–2019 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, the USPTO will continue its work to promote the adoption of effective systems of trade secret protection and enforcement around the world. Videos of all four sessions of the trade secret symposium are posted to the Trade Secret Policy page of the USPTO website, as well as additional useful information about the protection of trade secrets.

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