A guide to intellectual property rights – trade secrets

11th August 2015

Did you know it is possible to protect your sensitive business information through rights in confidential information, which covers know-how and trade secrets? Although not strictly classed as intellectual property, secret information, both technical and commercial, do not need to be registered.


Martin de Ridder, solicitor in the dispute resolution and employment teams at Ansons Solicitors in Cannock, explains more about what counts as a trade secret and under what circumstances a breach can be enforced.

Legal protection for confidential information may be required for a number of purposes, especially where it:

  • gives an advantage in a particular business market;
  • is know-how or technical knowledge for an invention for which a patent may be applied;
  • is information of value to the employer;
  • is information disclosed in a professional or fiduciary relationship; or
  • is personal information, for example, about family matters.

Under UK law, trade secrets are currently protected either in contract or under common law breach of confidence, although there is no intellectual property right in law that can be applied to the information itself. To gain protection it must have the necessary quality of confidence.

To be enforceable, the information must satisfy three tests:

  • it must be confidential in nature;
  • it must have been imparted in circumstances in which an obligation of confidence arises; and
  • where unauthorised use would be to the detriment of the person imparting it.

It is possible for trade holders to bring a claim for breach of contract if there has been a breach of an express confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement.

If there is no contract then it may still be possible to make a claim if there has been a breach of confidence against a third party who has released or misused confidential information. In all cases, it is advisable to get advice from an expert solicitor in this area of law.

For advice on protecting your intellectual property rights contact Martin de Ridder on 01543 431 186 or email Ansons Solicitors has offices in Cannock and Lichfield, Staffordshire.