Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Claiming Glazing Technique as Trade Secret

Dear Rich: I have a crafts business and I've developed some ceramic glazing techniques that are pretty unique. I took on an assistant in 2008 and trained her to do these techniques. I've always told her not to tell anyone about the process or materials used in the glazing and as far as I know she never has. The trouble is that she has gone out on her own and is now competing against me at local fairs and stores using some of these glazing techniques. Is there anything I can do? Maybe. If you can claim that the techniques are your trade secrets, you may be able to prevent your former assistant from using them. As we explain here, you need to prove that the process is not generally known within your industry and that you've taken reasonable steps to keep it confidential. Here is an article detailing the steps you should take if a secret is stolen (and you can follow up with a cease and desist letter). You don't have to have a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with your former assistant because most states have laws in place that prevent trade secret misappropriation (theft).  It may also make a difference if the assistant is characterized as an employee or as a contractor. By the way, in the future, you might want to use an NDA and at this site we've provided a basic one (click on the section titles for explanations) as well as a selection of specialty NDAs. Also, if the assistant has copied any of your ceramic imagery or copyrightable designs, you may be able to pursue the assistant under copyright law. Check out our crafts law book for more details.