Working Paper No. 11-14:
Private Law Theory and Corrective Justice in Trade Secrecy


Eric Claeys

Date Posted: March 2011

Abstract (below)
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Trade secrecy law and scholarship debate whether trade secrecy’s normative foundations make the most sense when grounded in tort, contract, equity, unjust enrichment, unfair competition, or confidentiality norms. To answer these questions, this Article applies a taxonomy of the private law developed in previous conceptual scholarship on corrective justice.

This taxonomy rules out the possibility that this right and interest sound in tort, contract, equity, or unjust enrichment.  Because all of these fields are corrective, all of them implement norms that come from other fields of law.  This taxonomy also rules out the possibility that the right and interest in a trade secret sound in liberty interests in competing or in forming and using confidential relations.  Although these interests have the right conceptual structure to serve as inputs to tort and other corrective fields, neither explains enough details of trade secrecy doctrine.  Conceptually, the normative interest in a trade secret makes the most sense as a usufructuary property interest, or as a normative interest not adequately covered by existing doctrinal categories.