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Upholding plaintiff's trade secret claim to its software, the federal court in Com-Share, Inc. v. Computer Complex, Inc.[1] held:

[T]he existing software systems which are unique in the computer time sharing industry all contain certain elements which perform similar functions and many utilize certain similar fundamental concepts, of a general nature. This is no more than saying that all have a common concept, and, in the most general sense, a common base. Such is common in all engineering. . . . The specific engineering of these software systems, and their particular underlying technologies and design, together with what has been referred to as their 'logic and coherence', as well as their speed, accuracy, cost, and commercial feasibility may differ greatly from system to system. They will and do inevitably reflect the peculiar and unique accomplishments and technical skills of the developers thereof.

Case law further supports the proposition that the overall design of a software program may be protectable as a trade secret, even if the individual components of that program are common knowledge in the software industry.[2]

Software specifications[]

Numerous court decisions have made clear that software specifications are also subject to trade secret protection.[3]


  1. 338 F. Supp. 1229, 1234 (E.D. Mich.) (full-text), aff’d, 458 F.2d 1341 (6th Cir. 1972) (full-text).
  2. See, e.g., Computer Care v. Service Sys. Enters., Inc., 982 F.2d 1063, 1074 (7th Cir. 1992) (full-text) ("A trade secret can exist in a combination of characteristics and components, each of which, by itself, is in the public domain, but the unified process design and operation of which in unique combination affords a competitive advantage and is a protectable trade secret" (citation omitted)).
  3. See, e.g., Computer Care v. Service Sys. Enters., Inc., 982 F.2d 1063, 1074 (7th Cir. 1992) (full-text); Harbor Software, Inc. v. Applied Sys., Inc., 887 F. Supp. 86, 90 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (full-text); i-Systems, Inc. v. Softwares, Inc., 2004 WL 742082, at *14 (D. Minn. Mar. 29, 2004) (trade secret found in the "detailed explanations of the logical workings of the feature sets of TQ Tracker"); TouchPoint Solutions, Inc. v. Eastman Kodak Co., 345 F.Supp.2d 23, 28 (D. Mass. 2004) (full-text) (trade secret protection for software design).