What Constitutes an Agribusiness Trade Secret?
Ice Miller can help innovators overcome critical challenges to grow successful agribusinesses. Learn more about the unique business and legal challenges facing food and agricultural innovators and how to protect and grow that innovation in our 2015 Agribusiness Guide
. An excerpt follows:
Trade secrets on the farm or in the agricultural business may be formulas for fertilizer, planting patterns, spraying devices and methods of using them, breeding processes, and any other specialized information or knowledge that is valuable to its owner as a secret. Technical and business information can be a trade secret if it is kept a secret. Even information about systems and procedures that were tried but later abandoned because they were failures can constitute a trade secret.
Trade secrets do not have to be written down, they do not have to be original, and they do not require registration in order to enforce them. However, trade secrets have to be kept secret. Once secrecy is destroyed, there is nothing left to protect. Relying on trade secret protection for important aspects of a farm’s operation or an innovative agribusiness requires a careful program of written agreements with employees, officers, contractors, and visitors who may be exposed to the secret. Employees and contractors might take both confidential and trade secret information with them simply because they were party to its creation or used such information in course of their employment. The producer or ag innovator, as the owner of the trade secret, needs to recognize his or her rights and responsibilities in such cases. Written policies should be in place to protect them, including appropriate non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. Fortunately, federal laws criminalize certain thefts of trade secrets. Most states also have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act to provide further remedies in the event of a misappropriation of trade secrets.