Recently, I was in New York. The dry winter air in the Northeast is always a shock to my system, since I’m used to the South Florida humidity. So I bought some lip balm. Upon reading the ingredients, I was intrigued to see this:
“Trade secret perfume.” Aside from creative marketing, does labeling an ingredient as a “trade secret” offer any legal benefits?
Formulas and recipes can be trade secrets. But of course, just labeling something as a trade secret does not make it so. Now if the lip balm company also takes other precautions—such as only disclosing the perfume formula to those employees who need the formula to do their jobs, and requiring that those employees sign confidentiality agreements—the “trade secret” label could be used to strengthen the argument that the formula is actually a trade secret.
This is similar to a document confidentiality policy. Labeling documents containing proprietary information as “confidential” can bolster a claim that the information is a trade secret, when the information is otherwise reasonably protected. But a label is never enough alone. As always, the key to protecting trade secrets starts with requiring that employees with access sign confidentiality agreements.