I know there a number of you out there who are former English or liberal arts majors and who may fondly remember Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the collection of bawdy and insightful stories told by various pilgrims as they travel to St. Thomas Becket’s shrine in 14th Century England. Where I am going with this, you ask? Well, if you are looking for a collection of enthralling stories to better understand the intricacies of trade secret law, you won’t do any better than David Almeling and Darin Snyder’s Trading Secrets: A Practical Introduction to Trade Secret Law and Strategy.
It is a considerably easier read than Chaucer’s Middle English verse, and in the style of the classic work, it draws from many fascinating trade secret cases — some well known, some not so well known — to make its points. David and Darin use literally dozens of short stories to explain and to illustrate. Like Chaucer’s ribald Miller’s Tale about the cuckolding of the carpenter John, there is the story of the betrayal of the founder of Alpha Mining Systems, who said his trusted lieutenant’s theft of Alpha’s trade secrets left him feeling “like the husband whose wife was getting it on the side.”
And there is the story of the epic rivalry between Oracle and Informix in the 1990’s, a rivalry so bitter that each company took to posting billboards taunting the other at the entry of their headquarters (Oracle’s famously read “Informix: Hiring lawyers experienced in suing programmers. Oracle: Hiring experienced programmers”). That story is effectively used to emphasize the dangers of over-reaching, as Informix was forced to issue a public mea culpa to its hated rival when it couldn’t back up its claims.
Trade secret disputes are modern day morality tales of theft and betrayal, fueled by fear and greed. Keeping Secrets’ appeal lies in the fact that it captures the essence of trade secret law through those stories. Keeping Secrets is short and an easy read, and I would especially recommend it for the in-house lawyer or HR administrator who has to juggle many potential areas of the law, as well as to members of the trade secret community looking for an entertaining refresher.
More information on Keeping Secrets can be found here.
(Full disclosure: I have known David through the years as we have traded notes and thoughts on our respective articles and posts. As some of you may remember, he and Darin contributed a wonderful post taking me to the woodshed for my comments on the impact of the America Invents Act upon trade secrets (specifically, the newly-expanded “prior use defense”)).