Sometime today, the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) will hold a hearing on what safeguards are needed for protecting trade secrets. Specifically, the SJC will take a look at the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which would create a US federal guideline for trade secret protection now and into the future. Microsoft knows the importance of protecting trade secrets not only for their own products like Cortana, but also to for their competitors.
Trade secrets have been a way of protecting innovation and technology from being stolen by other companies. Before the Internet, trade secrets were secret soda formulas, customer mailing lists, and product manufacturing methods that kept companies a step ahead of their competitors.
With some of the new technology that is being created today, trade secret protection is more important than ever before. Microsoft's Cortana is one perfect example. While Cortana acts as your virtual assistant by setting up meetings, appointments, and performing other tasks, there is an incredible amount of technology and software that is developed by Microsoft and works behind-the-scenes to create a unique experience that is different from other virtual assistants, like Google Now or Siri.
Cortana is powered by Microsoft-engineered voice recognition, language translation, context algorithms, location data, and uses a wide range of other Microsoft technologies, software, and cloud services in order to get Cortana to help you organize all of your tasks in real time. Microsoft's Cortana represents untold hours upon hours of research, testing, and other refinements as Cortana is adapted to be used with other applications and on other devices.
Although US patent and copyright laws are already in effect, US federal trade secret protection is important because it allows Microsoft to continue to innovate in ways other companies cannot. Trade secrets represent an alternative to patents in that they allow companies to maintain control of their technology for longer periods of time while giving up the legal monopoly that patents provide. It's an important tradeoff that allows companies to pick the best means of protecting their intellectual property.
Microsoft's Jule Sigall, Assistant General Counsel of IP Policy & Strategy explains the need for US federal trade secret protection:
"A trade secret is unique among forms of intellectual property in how it is legally protected. While it is a federal crime to steal a trade secret, a business that has its trade secrets stolen must rely on state law to pursue a civil remedy. Owners of copyrights, patents, and trademarks can go to federal court to protect their property and seek damages when their property has been infringed, but trade secret owners do not have access to such a federal remedy."
Microsoft is pleased to support the Defend Trade Secrets Act and will continue to work with the US Congress in the hopes that this legislation passes.