protecting trade secrets

Just about everyone reading this blog knows that pro-wrestling matches are scripted. And I’m sure many wrestling viewers know as well. But that hasn’t stopped WWE—the largest pro-wrestling company—from being hugely successful. Having scripted results, however, is very different from allowing the public to know who is going to win.

According to this Deadspin post, someone has been leaking WWE wrestling results before the matches start by posting the winners on Reddit (for the uninitiated, Reddit is essentially a sophisticated message board site — www.reddit.com).

This causes a number of issues for WWE. But for our purposes, let’s examine whether WWE wrestling match results are trade secrets under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA).

To be a trade secret under the UTSA, information must be (1) independently valuable because it is not known by others who could obtain value from knowing it, and (2) subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.

I can envision ways that wrestling results could be valuable to WWE’s competitors. WWE generates a large portion of its revenue from pay-per-view events. A competitor could distribute these results in advance of the event, which may result in fewer pay-per-view purchases, thus reducing WWE’s revenue. But while there’s an argument that wrestling results satisfy the first prong, I tend to think that this type of information falls outside what the UTSA is seeking to protect. It’s not like a competitor could replicate the matches. And I’m having a tough time thinking of ways a competitor could use this information to steal viewers.

(Regardless of whether the first prong is satisfied, we don’t have enough information about how WWE keeps this information secret to determine whether it acted reasonably.)

To me, the match results are confidential information that does not rise to the level of a trade secret. For information like this, it’s critical to have employees sign confidentiality/nondisclosure agreements, since protection under the UTSA is a longshot.

For its part, WWE is making light of the situation, having issued the following statement:

“We may have a modern day Nostradamus on our hands. We might have to monitor these posts in advance of our next pay-per-view to see how good he or she really is.”

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