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John R. Thomas, The Role of Trade Secrets in Innovation Policy (CRS Report R41391) (Jan. 15, 2014) (full-text).


A number of competing innovation policy concerns help shape the particular doctrines that comprise trade secret law. The availability of legal protection for trade secrets potentially promotes innovation, encourages firms to invest in employee development, and confirms standards of commercial ethics and morality. On the other hand, trade secret protection involves the suppression of information, which may hinder competition and the proper functioning of the marketplace. An overly robust trade secret law also could restrain employee mobility and promote investment in costly, but socially inefficient security measures.

This report provides an overview of the law and policy of trade secrets. It discusses the role of trade secrets in U.S. innovation policy. It then reviews the sources of trade secret law and the substantive rules that they provide. The report then provides a more detailed review of existing federal legislation that pertains to trade secrets. The report then discusses the relationship between patent law and trade secret law. The report closes with an identification of congressional issues and options within this field.

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