a. Uniform Trade Secrets Act
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act defines a trade secret as "information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:
(i) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and
(ii) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy."
Proper means of ascertaining a trade secret include:
"1. Discovery by independent invention;
2. Discovery by 'reverse engineering,' that is, by starting with the known product and working backward to find the method by which it was developed. The acquisition of the known product must, of course, also be by a fair and honest means, such as purchase of the item on the open market for reverse engineering to be lawful;
3. Discovery under a license from the owner of the trade secret;
4. Observation of the item in public use or on public display;
5. Obtaining the trade secret from published literature."
Improper means of discovering a trade secret include unauthorized disclosure, but not when the disclosure is by accident or mistake when reasonable measures are taken to maintain the secret. Examples of such reasonable measures are "advising employees of the existence of a trade secret, limiting access to a trade secret on 'need to know basis,' and controlling plant access."
Misappropriation of a trade secret can occur in two ways:
1. A person acquires the secret and knows or should have known the secret was revealed by improper means, or
2. Disclosure or use of the secret without the express or implied consent by a person who knew or should have known it was secret, or who acquired the secret from a person who had a duty to maintain its secrecy.
Remedies for misappropriation include injunction, reasonable royalties, and the misappropriating party being enjoined to take reasonable measures to protect the secret. The injunction may last "as long as is necessary, but no longer than is necessary, to eliminate the commercial advantage or 'lead time' with respect to good faith competitors that a person has obtained through misappropriation."
Damages may include "actual loss caused by misappropriation and the unjust enrichment caused by misappropriation that is not taken into account in computing damages for actual loss." Exemplary damages may double the award in cases of willful and malicious misappropriation.
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act has been adopted in some form by 47 states, including California via California Civil Code §§ 3426-3426.11. California is one of several states that also imposes criminal sanctions for theft of trade secrets via California Penal Code §§ 499C, 502.
The Federal Economic Espionage Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-1839, provides federal criminal and civil penalties for misappropriation of trade secrets. The statute applies to financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, and engineering information in the form of patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes (tangible or intangible) stored physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing.
1. The owner must take reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and
2. The information's value relates to the fact that it is not generally known nor readily accessible by the public.
Any unauthorized use or acquisition of a trade secret intended to benefit a foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent is punishable under the statute by a fine of "not more than $500,000" (organizations not more than $10 million) or imprisonment for "not more than 15 years, or both."
Unauthorized use or acquisition of a trade secret for economic benefit is punishable by a fine (not more than $5 million for an organization) or imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both.
Despite the federal statutes, most trade secret suits are state claims, although in the case of software (source code or otherwise) the claim may be combined with a federal copyright claim, which moves the case to federal court, where both the state and federal claims are heard.
b. Software protected by trade secrets
 Uniform Trade Secrets Act, § 1(2)(a)(ii).
 18 U.S.C .§ 1839.
 18 U.S.C. §1831.
 18 U.S.C. § 1832.