According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, any confidential business information which gives an enterprise a competitive edge may be considered a trade secret. Trade secrets encompass manufacturing or industrial secrets and commercial secrets. The unauthorized use of such information by persons other than the holder is regarded as an unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret.
The subject matter of trade secrets is usually defined in broad terms and includes sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes. While a final determination of what information constitutes a trade secret will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, clearly unfair practices in respect of secret information include industrial or commercial espionage, breach of contract and breach of confidence.
There are currently no legal provisions that specifically protect trade secrets so unlike trademarks and patents, there is no system of registration in St. Kitts and Nevis. The responsibility therefore falls on the owner of the trade secret to protect it by keeping it confidential. Some tips to protect them are:
- Keep the trade secret between a limited number of people and ensure that they understand that the information is to be kept confidential
- Include confidentiality or non-disclosure clauses within contracts of employees and business partners. The contract can impose a duty to maintain confidentiality of the trade secret for a certain time even after the employee has left the company. Disclosing the trade secret in such a situation would then become a breach of contract.
Since protection depends on the trade secret remaining confidential, the length of protection can last indefinitely if persons are trustworthy and respect contractual obligations.
Trade secrets are often protected through contracts and these can apply across country borders for whatever time period the parties agree.