Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Jeff Patterson


The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) developed the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) to unify the laws regulating the improper use of secret, economically advantageous information. However, consumers often procure software and other products without knowledge of any trade secrets used in the production of the products. Some companies have sought remedies against end users of products developed using trade secrets. But in Silvaco Data Systems v. Intel Corp., a California appeals court considering this issue in the software context held that execution of compiled object code, which is not easily interpreted by humans, is not an improper use of trade secrets embedded in the underlying, human-readable source code. This ruling implies that end users of software, and perhaps other products, are not liable for misappropriation of trade secrets merely through use of the end products. This Article surveys the application of the UTSA to software and explains why this holding is a proper reading of the Act’s scope. In addition, this Article discusses the public policies behind this limitation on liability for end users and possible implications of the Silvaco ruling beyond software.

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