Secrets — Corporate general counsels may find themselves unprepared to answer some basic trade secret questions posed by senior executives. Consider this cautionary tale about a general counsel who is unprepared to answer some simple questions about his company’s trade secrets by the company’s new CEO.

The new CEO had been appointed to turn around the organization, and had outlined an aggressive first 100 days’ program to help him understand the company, its business and its customers. He had already set out some new ground rules and expectations, putting his stamp on the organization.

The General Counsel had been with the company a long time. He was “old school” in many ways but recognised that the role of the GC was undergoing a transformation. He was under intense pressure to make less go further, having to adapt to unprecedented levels of change, expanding areas of responsibility, and needing to extend his skill set.

The company was located in a large modern high rise office tower. The GC entered the spacious lobby, said good morning to the receptionist at the front desk and entered the elevator to take him to his office on the top floor.

Hearing someone call out, the GC held the elevator door open. The new CEO entered the elevator.

They exchanged pleasantries. The CEO then quickly switched to business matters:

“When you present at the Board Meeting tomorrow, can you please include an update on the trade secrets within the organization?

“I have just been reading about the Defend Trade Secrets Act being passed in the US as well as about harmonisation of trade secret laws in Europe, and it would be good for me and the other C Suite Executives to understand more about these assets within the company and how they are being protected.

“‘You typically get what you measure’ is my motto so lots of good quality insightful data please.

“Given that you have been the GC here for many years, I know that you will have all of this data readily available at your finger tips anyway.“

trade secret unpreparedThe GC nodded, smiling weakly and with that the buzzer went off, indicating that the elevator had reached their floor, and the CEO bounded out and headed for his office.

“Oh bugger,“ muttered the GC as he slowly made his way to his office. It was going to be a very long and tiring  day in the office.

Hazel Helps Companies Identify Rank & Protect Their Trade Secrets

The Hazel Trade Secret Asset Management System may help your company manage its trade secrets and trade secret processes. Hazel can keep track of your corporate trade secrets and help you determine an appropriate level of protection for each trade secret recorded. Hazel can record who in your organization is responsible for a given trade secret, who is responsible for protecting the trade secret, and who has access to the trade secret, among other things. Contact the Hazel Team today to learn more.

For Secrets, I’m Donal O’Connell.


Surprise by GauravmvOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Anxiety by <a title=”en:Edvard Munch” class=”extiw” href=””>Edvard Munch</a> – Google Art Project: <a class=”external text” href=”” rel=”nofollow”>pic</a>, Public Domain, <a href=”″>Link</a>

Thomas Ewing is a commercial lawyer, registered patent attorney, and intellectual property counselor with more than 25 years of experience in the IP field.  In his consulting practice, Tom routinely advises international organizations, government agencies, universities, law firms, multinational corporations and financial institutions. Tom has been recognized as one of the world’s 250 best IP strategists by IAM Magazine in every edition of its IAM 250 since the list’s inception in 2009.