Updated Trade Secrets Course Description

Trade Secrets (3 cr.) (Hrdy)                                  TTh 10:45A-12:15P

Grading Method: Free slot exam/other

Prerequisite: None, though introductory IP is recommended

The law of trade secrets is an unusual, often misunderstood, and increasingly important field of intellectual property. Despite state and federal statutes governing trade secrecy, the law of trade secrets still works much like common law. It relies heavily on policy and practical matters and is especially amenable to good lawyering.

This course has two purposes. The first is to give students a strong practical grounding in the law of trade secrets and help prepare them to enter trade secret practice. To this end, we will read a lot of cases, and we will conduct exercises throughout the semester to apply the ideas we learn in the readings and in-class discussions. The second purpose is to obtain a deeper understanding of the theory behind an area of law that is under theorized compared to its patent and copyright brethren. What is the purpose of legally protecting companies’ trade secrets? Is it to prevent the unethical “theft” of information generated on others’ dime? Is it to preserve fair competition in the marketplace? Or is it to provide an economic incentive to innovate, similar to patent law? What does it mean for society that trade secret laws, alone among IP regimes, prevent rather than promote the disclosure of information? We will also discuss the underlying federalism tensions in this area. Until recently, trade secrets remained almost entirely the arena of state law. However, the United States has now adopted a federal civil trade secrets statute, ostensibly to deal with the increasing threat of cyber attack and a “growing scourge” of trade secret theft by foreigners.

This class is three credits. There will be an in-class exam. Credit will also be given for class exercises and participation.