Trade Secrets

Additon, Pendleton & Witherspoon, P.A. helps clients protect trade secrets by providing confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements and advising on other reasonable efforts necessary to maintain the secrecy required to protect and enforce trade secret rights.  We also advise clients on ways to avoid trade secret claims by other parties; these often arise when hiring a competitor’s employees.

Misappropriation of trade secrets typically requires quick action to obtain temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions to prevent further harm caused by the misappropriation. Our attorneys have represented plaintiffs and defendants in trade secrets litigation in state and federal courts and in arbitration to seek relief.

Trade secrets are protected by federal and state statutes.  For instance, North Carolina has adopted a version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.  This state law provides injunctive relief to prevent further use and disclosure of the trade secret and damages, including punitive damages and recovery of attorney’s fees if the misappropriation is willful and malicious.  The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 makes the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets a federal crime.  The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 created a federal cause of action for misappropriation of trade secrets and provides remedies like the North Carolina Trade Secrets Act and also provides for civil “seizure of property necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of the trade secret that is the subject of the action.” 

We also help clients decide whether to maintain inventions or new developments as trade secrets or to pursue patent protection.  While legal protections for trade secrets have been strengthened, decisions over the past decade from the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals may have weakened a patentee’s ability to enforce its patent rights in some technologies.  Thus, it is more important than ever to evaluate whether to protect new developments as a trade secret or by a patent.  Our attorneys have the technical backgrounds and experience to advise clients on these complex issues.