« Court Finds Domain Names are Located Where Registry and Registrar are Located | Main | Adult Entertainment Company Sues Intelius over "Date Check" Trademark »

Information about Trademarks Not Protectable as a Trade Secret

Plaintiff K.S. and her guardian ad litem sued Ambassador Programs, Inc., and other defendants in the Eastern District of Washington.

Plaintiffs alleged that defendants made false representations about the People to People Student Ambassador Program, including that defendants misrepresented to plaintiffs that they had selected K.S. to be a student ambassador in Australia during the summer of 2006.

In the litigation, defendants produced a contract that defined the rights between the defendants pursuant to a temporary agreement between counsel pending a final agreement or order from the court.

Thereafter, plaintiffs sought leave to publicly file the contract in connection with a dispositive motion. Defendants sought to require plaintiffs to file the contract under seal.

This may be of interest to trademark practitioners because the contract in part governed one defendant’s use of trademarks owned by another defendant. This, the defendants argued, constituted a trade secret and, therefore, should not be publicly disclosed.

The court disagreed. Adopting the magistrate judge’s recommendation, the Eastern District of Washington found that the defendant already had disclosed the contracts’ subject matter in an annual report. Since the report was public, the contracts’ treatment of the trademarks was not a trade secret.

“Again, at p. 5 of the 2008 Ambassadors Annual Report,” the court found, “the Defendants clearly disclose to the public that Ambassador has registered or applied for a variety of service and trademarks. The Annual Report states, in pertinent part, under the heading of Service and Trademarks as follows: ‘In addition, we have the right, subject to certain exceptions, to use People to People’s name, service mark and logo for use in our marketing. We believe that the strength of our service and trademarks is valuable to our business and intend to continue to protect and promote our marks as appropriate. We believe that our business is not overly dependent upon any one trademark or service mark.’

“Thus, the Defendants clearly have made public the information that they have a relationship for Ambassador to use the trademark and logo of PTPI and that Ambassador is not overly dependent on any one of the trademarks. The consideration paid to use same, if any, is not disclosed in either the Annual Report or the Agreements themselves.”

Makes sense that publicly-disclosed facts cannot be protected as a trade secret.

For that reason, I question how one’s trademark registrations or applications could ever be protectable as a trade secret. One’s licensing agreements and marketing strategies are one thing, but the ownership of trademark applications and registrations are of public record. 

The case cite is K.S. ex rel. Isserlis v. Ambassador Programs, Inc.  2010 WL 605274, No. 08-243 (E.D. Wash. Feb. 18, 2010).

Posted on February 24, 2010 by Registered CommenterMichael Atkins in , | Comments1 Comment

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (1)

Although each application and registration may be public in any given country, like customer lists, the trade secret is in the aggregate. Seeing the big picture (something one cannot presently do easily) may reveal strategic business information. If I suddenly start filing a lot of applications in South America for FOO, you might infer something from that.
February 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.