Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Brian T. Yeh. April 22, 2016.
A trade secret is confidential, commercially valuable information that provides a company with a competitive advantage, such as customer lists, methods of production, marketing strategies, pricing information, and chemical formulae. Well–known examples of trade secrets include the formula for Coca–Cola, the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the algorithm used by Google’s search engine. To succeed in the global marketplace, U.S. firms depend upon their trade secrets, which increasingly are becoming their most valuable intangible assets. However, U.S. companies annually suffer billions of dollars in losses due to the theft of their trade secrets by employees, corporate competitors, and even foreign governments. Stealing trade secrets has increasingly involved the use of cyberspace, advanced computer technologies, and mobile communication devices, thus making the theft relatively anonymous and difficult to detect. The Chinese and Russian governments have been particularly active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage with respect to U.S. trade secrets and proprietary information.
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