What is a "trade secret"?

In Indiana, a trade secret law has been in effect since 1982 (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 24-2-3-1). Lawyers understand trade secrets to be property, particularly as defined by Indiana’s criminal laws (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-31.5-2-253(a)(9)). Because it is defined under our criminal statutes, a person can be charged with a crime if he takes another person’s trade secret without permission to do so.

Now to non-lawyers, trade secrets are a bit confusing. Assuming (which has to be proved of course) that there is special value in the item, and that you have made every attempt to protect the item then the following items are trade secrets:

  • a formula;

  • a pattern;

  • a program;

  • a device;

  • a method;

  • a technique; or

  • a process.

Indiana courts have found that certain customer lists, secret processes, mechanical repair data, and chemical formulas are trade secrets. If you think you have a trade secret issue (one stolen or one to protect), consult an attorney on how best to move forward.

Daniel Zamudio

I am a patent attorney and have experience litigating in federal court.