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How does business law conflict with trade secrets, and to what extent does this conflict pose problems? This paper will conduct an overview of how the business law acknowledges trade secrets and how it attempts to protect them. Along with case law examples, a stance will be ascertained as to the conflicting elements between business law and trade secrets, and how these conflicts, if any, cause problems for companies that try to protect their trade secrets. How the law defines trade secret, protects it, and what action can be taken will be assessed on a deeper level, as well as a brief comparison to its application to patents and trademarks to determine just how these conflicts have arisen, and why.
Companies spend vast amounts of money on perfecting and researching new methods, processes and products in order to make them ‘stand out’ from their competitors. For example, Company Z discovers, after research and careful planning, a new safety system for its family vehicles – a system which cost the company millions in research and is now able to set this company apart from its competitors in this area. Indeed, this company should be entitled to the benefits reaped by the research and effort, both financially, and on a reputational level. It should be protected from Company Y, which decides that it wants to reap the benefits also of Company Z’s research, but without having exerted the time and money. Not only is this unfair on many ethical levels, it also has the potential to create rifts in the market, for Company Z has put a large amount of funds into discovering something that Company Y steps in and takes for free. The law attempts to prevent such occurrences, and recognizes the inevitable demise of companies such as Z in such situations. However, there is much potential for problems to arise, especially when the elusive trade secret is defined by the actions of the company which possesses it rather than its actual content per se. This element
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