A company that invents original technologies, unique compositions, or special development processes (“IP”) knows intuitively that it must protect those interests to stay ahead of the competition. However, knowing how to protect that IP is not quite so instinctual.
How long does a copyright owner have to bring suit for copyright infringement? The answer is three years from the date of the last infringement, regardless of when the very first infringement occurred. Copyright law follows the “separate-accrual rule,” which provides for a new three-year statute of limitations each time an infringement occurs. While the three-year look back period allows copyright owners to maintain actions years or decades after the initial infringement occurs (assuming subsequent infringements), the copyright holder would only be entitled to damages for that three-year period, rather than the entire period of time the infringing activity had occurred.
Trade secrets, amorphously defined as any confidential business information which gives an enterprise a competitive edge, have not had much federal protection as compared to other intellectual property vehicles such as copyrights, trademarks and patents. Traditionally, trade secret misappropriation cases have been litigated in state court using state law. Even though the majority of states have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”), there are still notable differences among the various version of the UTSA implemented by the individual states. This has resulted in inconsistent and sometimes contradictory decisions regarding what a state court considers a “trade secret,” what constitutes “misappropriation” of a trade secret, and what the proper recourse is for a proven misappropriation.