You may have heard the phrase "trade secret" before, but it is not a term that is just thrown around in regular conversations. The matter of trade secrets is at the center of a bakery's breach of contract suit against a former employee.
A trade secret refers to information that has monetary value because it is not inherently or generally known by rival companies in a competitive market. Also, as the name implies, a trade secret must be able to, well, be kept reasonably secret. If a piece of information does not meet these qualifications, it cannot be deemed a trade secret.
A bakery in Illinois believes it can prove their recipes are indeed trade secrets - recipes that were stolen by a former chef. The chef admitted he had the recipes, apparently telling the bakery's owner that she should have made copies of the recipes.
The owner of the bakery says that it took nearly four years for her company to perfect the recipes and that few, if any, other bakeries know how to make their particular items. In addition, the owner says the recipes were only made once -- she says no duplicates or replicas were made, and that they were in a binder that the chef stole.
Maybe the most important piece of information in this case is that the chef signed a nondisclosure agreement. Since the chef attained a trade secret after signing such an agreement by the act of theft, he would be in breach of that contract.
Source: Reuters, "IL Chef Sued Over Bakery's Missing Recipes," Stephanie Rabiner, April 18, 2012