Business attorney with client

The Secret Sauce Protecting Companies from Competition

At Vaziri Law LLC, we help Chicago area businesses and creators identify and protect their intellectual property so they can continue to profit from it. Many of our clients rely on nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements to protect their business information, processes, client lists, and other trade secrets. 

What is a Trade Secret? 

Under Illinois law, a trade secret is defined as:

information, including but not limited to, technical or non-technical data, a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, drawing, process, financial data, or list of actual or potential customers or suppliers, that:

  • is sufficiently secret to derive economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and
  • is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy or confidentiality.

Let’s break this down. 

  • Most Illinois businesses have unique characteristics, products, or ways of doing business that distinguish them from their competitors. This is the information referenced in the first part of the Illinois definition of trade secret. 
  • That general information gets transformed into a trade secret, and offered legal protection from infringement, by having commercial value and being kept as a secret. 
  • The commercial value of a trade secret doesn’t have to be in the millions of dollars. Anything that gives a business an advantage against a competitor is highly valuable and worth protecting. 
  • The way a trade secret is protected helps establish it as a trade secret. Some trade secrets are locked in vaults, others are protected by lines of code. Things like business processes or methods of production, which are known by employees, can be protected by nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements.

An Example with Some Local Flavor

McDonald’s is one of the largest businesses based in the Chicago area, and it happens to have a number of trade secrets it is very protective of. One of the company’s most famous trade secrets is the recipe for its Big Mac Special Sauce. The tangy sauce that makes Big Macs mouthwatering was protected by the company as a trade secret after its development in the 1970s. According to legend, the recipe was kept so well hidden it was actually lost

Nobody realized it was missing until an executive who had previously worked alongside founder Ray Kroc demanded it be changed back from its current version. “After tracking down the original formula in the McDonald’s archives, [the exec] contacted the supplier who had helped develop the McDonald’s Special Sauce years ago, and the McDonald’s Special Sauce recipe was returned.”

In more recent years, McDonald’s has bottled and sold the sauce, which required it to list the ingredients. And a McDonald’s chef posted a YouTube video giving a step-by-step demonstration of its production. With this information out in the public, it is questionable whether the Special Sauce is still a trade secret. As discussed above, trade secrets must be kept a secret in order to be protected. 

Identifying and Protecting Trade Secrets 

Many businesses and creators in the Chicago area have trade secrets, but identifying and protecting them is a completely different skill set than developing them or even profiting from them. Vaziri Law LLC helps businesses with the legal aspects of trade secret identification and protection while our clients focus on running their businesses. 

We assess what makes a business unique and gives it an edge over competitors. We then put legal protections in place to protect those assets against infringement. Sometimes this means filing for a copyright or a trademark, but a lot of intellectual property can be protected by well-drafted nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements. 

Fueled by passion. Built on trust.

Vaziri Law LLC’s experienced team is passionate about helping Chicago area residents and businesses benefit from the hard work they put into their creations. Contact us today to schedule a meeting.