For many pieces of intellectual property, it can be registered with the government in order to protect it. However, with trade secrets, that isn’t the case, resulting in a number of problems for businesses in California and throughout the rest of the country. Trade secrets can only be protected by being kept confidential, which is generally with a NDA, also known as a non-disclosure agreement, or something similar. In many cases, companies find themselves in court fighting the misappropriation of trade secrets, which could be called trade secret litigation, and is something that USA Power recently had to move forward with against PacifiCorp.
After allegedly stealing trade secrets from USA Power, PacifiCorp has been ordered by a state court jury to pay over $131 million in damages. Out of that $131 million, USA Power is receiving contract damages of $18 million and $113 million for unjust enrichment damages. Reportedly, PacifiCorp disagrees with the jury’s verdict and will be actively pursuing any and all options available to them for an appeal.
If any California business is going through a contract dispute or issues with intellectual property, such as trade secrets, there are protections under California law. There are specific guidelines to follow when pursuing legal action in a business matter like this, but it is critical for the integrity of one’s company to do so. When trade secrets are provided outside of the business without permission, it can do serious damage to the business’s reputation, which is why it is so important to ensure that proper contract documentation is set into place regarding trade secrets and other intellectual property of the business.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, “Berkshire’s PacifiCorp Must Pay $131 Million to USA Power,” Joel Rosenblatt, May 25, 2012