Shangri-la is a fictional location high in the Himalayan mountains. It is the product of the imagination of the British author James Hilton who used it as the setting of his 1933 novel “Lost Horizon”. Those familiar with the novel or the movies made from it know that it was a place intentionally kept secret by its inhabitants and only accessible by those that knew the secret path one had to travel to get there. President Franklin Roosevelt was fond of the name. Indeed, the current Presidential retreat known as Camp David bore the name Shangri-la during part of his term in office. On April 18, 1942, just a bit over 4 months after Imperial Japanese naval forces launched their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor the USA struck back with a daring bombing raid on Tokyo. Unknown to the public at the time, the 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers commanded by Lt. Col. James Doolittle launched their attack from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. A feat most would have thought impossible. When asked about the raid, FDR quipped that the planes had been launched from “our new base in Shangri-La”.
Like military secrets, trade secrets of a company must be protected. Industrial espionage is a major concern as is the misappropriation of intellectual property. This is especially true in the digital age when pilfered information is no longer smuggled long distances in the form of hidden microfilm. Today such stolen data can be sent instantaneously to all corners of the world with the click of a button. Combatting this problem presents challenges in the legal setting.
Be that as it may, legal documents can provide a degree of protection when it comes to theft of intellectual property by private actors who have a physical presence within the United States or in other countries that respect the rule of law. In many scenarios such agreements are drafted to protect a company from an employee jumping ship and taking such information with them to a competitor. In others such agreements are drafted when engaging third parties to provide services to a company when access to privileged information is necessary to provide the service. In other instances, such agreements are necessary when a potential corporate suitor is doing due diligence regarding a potential buy out or merger. Likewise, when one is doing a factory tour, nondisclosure agreements prohibiting taking and transmitting photographs and disclosing other information about plant processes are required. In essence, any company that has a “secret sauce” should do all they can to protect their trade secrets in order to ensure the viability of their company. In this regard, lawyers can help provide solutions.
When it comes to foreign state actors involved in industrial espionage, even the best drawn legal documents can offer little or no protection to a company victimized by an employee or contractor who is spying on the company. While one might be able to reach out and seek damages against the employee , their assets will normally be miniscule compared to the damage done. One also might be able to seek damages against a company who has stolen the technology if they have a business presence in the free world. However, as often is the case, if the intellectual property is stolen by agents of a foreign dictatorship private legal actions oftentimes will be fruitless. In such cases the remedy (if any) falls into the hands of federal law enforcement, federal elected officials and federal government agencies. Lawyers can however, help companies implement policies and draft contracts to decrease their risk of exposure to such external threats at least when it comes to employees or contractors who handle the “secret sauce”. Best to identify a potential bad apple before they get into the pie.
Protect your secret sauce with everything you have. And when you need help, call the one you can trust. Contact Chris today … click here.