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Trade secrets: A sometimes clear, occasionally blurred line

Commercial principals in New York companies of virtually all sizes and types spend considerable time trying to spot and effectively deal with business risks.

Those challenges can seemingly span a limitless gamut of possibilities. There are always new and more potent rivals to compete with. Market trends and realities are constantly evolving. Money matters relevant to financing, material costs and pricing are always top-tier concerns. Customers can be fickle. Contractual disputes and litigation periodically arise.

And then there are employees, of course. The management-worker relationship is dynamic, symbiotic and complex. Both sides of that equation must work in concert to secure a mutually beneficial goal, but conflict also arises from time to time.

Discord can especially loom in select instances of employee departure. In such cases, an employment contract can take center stage. We note on our website at the proven New York Tarantino Law Firm that companies sometimes execute agreements “that limit what an employee can do after he or she leaves a company.”

Stressed limitations sometimes involve trade secrets. Employees who exit one company and take up new positions elsewhere often argue that their former employers define trade secrets too broadly and seek to unduly limit their prerogatives going forward.

And ex-managers often counter-argue that what an ex-worker has departed with (e.g., files, documents, processes, formulas, software applications or other assets) comprises valuable and closely guarded company property. Legions of trade secret cases have led to court determinations that assets taken from a company are both proprietary and flatly worthy of protection.