Trade secrets are one aspect of intellectual property law that even entrepreneurs and investors in Naples may not have heard too much about. They simply aren’t talked about as much as patents, copyrights and trademarks are.

However, trade secrets are big business.

To put it very generally, any information that a business uses that gets some economic value from being kept secret and is subject to reasonable efforts by the business to ensure it isn’t widely known could be considered a trade secret.

These days, trade secrets are absolutely vital to companies because they give them some measure of protection against their competitors. The theft of trade secrets, called “industrial espionage,” is a black-market industry that rakes in millions of dollars each year and, according to federal authorities, compromises the U.S.’s economic stability by unjustly enriching foreign competitors.

Recently, a former engineer for Motorola was sentenced to four years in prison for trying to steal telecommunications technology from her former employer. She had been apprehended at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport with a one-way ticket to China, $30,000 in cash and papers from Motorola that were stamped with “Confidential and Proprietary Information.”

Her sentence is the longest and most strict handed down in recent memory for such a crime.

The lesson to be learned from that story is that you could have very valuable information that might be a good candidate for trade secret protection. The government knows how valuable this sort of information is to homegrown businesses, but it cannot help you out in the case of theft if you haven’t properly protected your vital materials.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, “Former Motorola engineer sentenced to 4 years in trade-secret case,” Ameet Sachdev, Aug. 31 2012