March 28, 2014 Articles

On the Importance of Early Identification and Getting Specific

A survey of recent cases underscores the need for plaintiffs to pin down the particular information alleged to be trade secrets early on

By Casey Mangan and Jeffrey A. Wakolbinger

In a locked vault in Louisville, Kentucky, sits a custom-made computerized safe under 24-hour surveillance. The vault is encased on all sides by two feet of solid concrete. The safe has a half-inch-thick steel door that can only be opened with both a smart key and a personal identification number and only during preset periods of time. It reportedly houses one of KFC Corporation's most valuable assets: Colonel Sanders's handwritten original recipe for its secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. See "To Launch the Ultimate Value Menu, KFC Offers First-Ever Look into New High-Tech Home of One of America's Most Valued Secrets," KFC News, Feb. 10, 2009 (last visited Jan. 22, 2014).

If, despite these extensive efforts to keep this recipe a secret, someone were to gain access to that vault, open the safe, abscond with the recipe, and use it to start a competing fried-chicken franchise, there would be little doubt that something unlawful had transpired, and there would be little difficulty identifying the alleged trade secret at issue. Assuming that the recipe truly is a secret not legally ascertainable by other means, KFC would likely have a solid claim for trade-secret misappropriation.

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