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What is a Trade Secret and How Do I Protect It?

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Trade secrets are a form of intellectual property protection

They can help businesses protect certain types of information held within their businesses that are critical to business success.

An image of traffic going around a roundabout at night - for some reason.

Photo by Stephan H. on Unsplash

Words by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry

Trade secrets can be a valuable asset for many businesses, providing them with a competitive edge and a unique advantage over their competitors. However, the threat of theft and misappropriation of trade secrets is real, and businesses need to take appropriate measures to protect their valuable information. In this blog post, we'll explore what trade secrets are, why they're important, and how to protect them in the UK.



What is a Trade Secret?


A trade secret is confidential business information that provides a business with a competitive advantage over others in the same industry. A trade secret can be any type of information that is not generally known or readily accessible to the public and has commercial value. Examples of trade secrets include customer lists, manufacturing processes, and recipes.



Importance of Protecting Trade Secrets


Protecting trade secrets is crucial for businesses because they often provide a competitive advantage over their rivals. Losing trade secrets to competitors could mean the loss of a unique selling point, damage to the business reputation, and financial losses. Businesses should take steps to protect their trade secrets to avoid these negative outcomes.



Ways to Protect Trade Secrets


Here are some ways businesses can protect their trade secrets:


Non-disclosure agreements

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legally binding agreement between two parties that sets out confidential material, knowledge or information that the parties wish to share with each other for certain purposes but wish to restrict access to or by third parties.


Employee training and education

Proper training and education can help employees understand the importance of protecting trade secrets and how identifying potential risks to confidentiality. Employers can also implement clear policies and procedures for handling sensitive information.


Physical security measures

Businesses should ensure that sensitive documents and other physical trade secrets are stored in a secure location, with limited access to authorized personnel.


Cybersecurity measures

Businesses should also implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect digital trade secrets from hacking and cyber-attacks.


Legal Protection for Trade Secrets

In the UK, trade secrets are protected by the law of confidence. This means that businesses can take legal action against anyone who misuses their confidential information. The law of confidence applies to both written and oral information, and it does not require any formal registration or filing. However, businesses must be able to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to protect their confidential information.





Trade secrets can be an invaluable asset to businesses, providing them with a competitive edge in their industry. However, the threat of theft and misappropriation of trade secrets is real, and businesses need to take appropriate measures to protect their valuable information. Non-disclosure agreements, employee training, physical and cybersecurity measures can all help businesses to safeguard their trade secrets. In the UK, trade secrets are protected by the law of confidence, and businesses should seek legal advice to ensure that they are taking all the necessary steps to protect their confidential information.


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Look at our other guides that relate to this topic here.

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How to avoid trademark infringement

Accused of copyright infringement? What to do next




Virtuoso Legal is a team of intellectual property specialists based in Leeds and London - operating worldwide. Virtuoso Legal's team of IP experts have successfully tried cases in the IPEC, High Court, Court of Appeals and United Kingdom Supreme Court. In addition, the team assist companies in creating, commercialising and protecting the big ideas that make their business unique. The firm and its professionals are ranked yearly in legal directories such as the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, cementing their status as a Top 2% law firm in the world.

DISCLAIMER: The content within this post is for educational purposes only. Virtuoso Legal does not take any responsibility for those that use this information and waives any liability for any resulting effect on your personal or commercial circumstances. If you are experiencing an issue and need advice, we strongly encourage you to contact a solicitor to identify your best course of action.

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