Cannabis Intellectual Property Strategy & Trade Secrets

Branding your California Cannabis Business - Managing your Assets with a strong intellectual property strategy.

Cannabis Compliance Lawyers has decades of experience in developing and protecting intellectual property, including copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets and patents across the country.

Emerging cannabis businesses contend with a mixture of complex legal issues as they seek to register, protect, and license their trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and other intellectual property.

Since federal intellectual property laws have neglected to keep pace with state cannabis laws, your local cannabis business must be aware of the legal limitations that affect how you may develop, protect and defend your cannabis brands and other intellectual property rights.

At Cannabis Compliance Lawyers, we are well versed in the distinctive challenges that you may face in securing your intellectual property, and we take swift action to identify and protect that intellectual property when needed.

Protecting Your Cannabis Trade Secrets

Cannabis trade secrets are a central aspect of intellectual property law that has not yet received sufficient attention in the cannabis industry.

Under California law, a trade secret is defined as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:

(1) Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use;  and

(2) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy."  (California Civil Code section 3426.1).

In general, any secret business information that provides a company with a significant competitive edge can be considered a trade secret worth protecting.

Trade secrets are easily misappropriated because they are often intangible information, which can be memorized, written down, e-mailed or copied onto some tangible medium and then quietly removed from company premises.

Once trade secrets fall into the hands of an unscrupulous competitor or former employee, they can be clandestinely put to immediate use, causing great harm to the rightful owner.

Because an owner must exercise “reasonable efforts” to maintain the secrecy of a trade secret is required, the owner’s mere desire or intent to keep information a secret is not enough.

A specific plan of protection must be designed and implemented. Cannabis Compliance Lawyers can help you identify your trade secrets, develop protection plans and, if necessary, protect those trade secrets in Court.

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Examples of Trade Secrets 

Trade secrets generally fall into two categories: technical information and business information. The items listed below are illustrative, not exclusive, but provide general guidance:

Technical Information, including:

  • Plans, designs and patterns, such as those for specialized equipment;
  • Processes and formulas, such as those for the manufacture of drugs, foods, chemicals orother materials;
  • Methods and techniques for manufacturingor processinbg;
  • Engineering notes;
  • Negative informationor Know How, e.g., the designs or operations that were tried but failed to work;
  • Computer software (programs or source code)

Business Information, including:

  • Customer lists;
  • Costof Goods and Profit information;
  • Financial information prior to public release;
  • Grow Plans and Schedules;
  • Internal market analyses or forecasts;
  • Manufacturing details;
  • Marketing and advertising plans, both for existing andfuture products
  • New Product Development information; and
  • Unannounced business relationshipsor opportunities.

Trade secrets often include new manufacturing or industrial secret formulas, innovative processes or techniques as well as company secrets, such as customer lists, business plans or tactics that have a marketable value because of their secrecy.

Unlawful use of stolen or shared information by any person other than its rightful owner is an unfair practice and considered a violation.

Trade secrets differ from patents.  Patents protect inventors so they can reveal their inventions to the public and then receive a limited time to exclusively exploit their inventions.

Trade secrets provide protections only as long as their secrets are not disclosed to anyone. There are no forms to register to protect a trade secret.

In a case of stolen trade secrets, one of the factors measured by the court is whether the owner of a trade secret implemented sufficient measures to maintain the security of those secrets.

Protecting trade secrets include restricting the number of persons who know the secret; security protocols and requiring employees to sign a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement.

Information that has already been revealed is not subject to trade secret protection.  This is why we encourage all of our clients to have confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements in place with their employees and with other individuals with whom they do business.