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Baker McKenzie is proud to present The Board Ultimatum: Protect and Preserve (The Rising Importance of Safeguarding Trade Secrets), our new report published in partnership with Euromoney Institutional Investor Thought Leadership.

In this report, we find that that trade secrets have become even more important than trademarks in today’s digital economy. Yet despite the rising commercial power of trade secrets, many companies aren’t taking basic steps to protect them from theft by employees, suppliers, hackers and other third parties.

Based on a survey of more than 400 executives across five industries — healthcare, financial services, industrials, ICT and consumer goods and retail — the report examines how the leaders of multinational companies view their trade secrets, who they see as the greatest threats to these secrets and what they do (and don’t do) to protect them.

Key findings include:

1. Trade secrets and IP play an essential role in companies’ brand value and corporate strategy. In our survey, 82% of respondents said their trade secrets are an important, if not essential, part of their businesses. Among industries, 46% of financial services executives said they consider their trade secrets to be essential to their corporate strategy, followed by industrials and ICT executives (both 41%), healthcare (35%) and consumer goods and retail (27%).

2. Trade secret protection is a board-level issue. Among our respondents, 61% said that protecting their company trade secrets and IP is a board-level issue, reflecting the rising value of trade secrets in our digital age. Nearly one-third ranked it a top-five concern.

3. One in five companies has suffered trade secret theft.  Among the companies in our survey, 20% said they’ve had trade secrets stolen. Another 11% said they don’t know whether they’ve been the victim of misappropriation, indicating that the incidents of theft are likely higher. The healthcare industry is by far the most targeted, with 33% of those executives reporting they’ve suffered trade secret theft, followed by industrials (18%) and ITC (17%).

4. Corporate leaders most fear theft by former employees. When asked to identify the greatest threat to their trade secrets, 32% of our respondents said they feared having trade secrets stolen by former employees most, followed by suppliers, consultants and other third parties (28%), and current employees (20%). Another 15% said they most fear rogue or state-sponsored cybercriminals or hackers.

5. Only one-third of companies maintain inventories of their trade secrets and have action plans for responding to theft. Despite the heightened awareness of the importance of trade secrets, only 31% of our respondents said they have procedures in place to respond to the threat of or actual theft of trade secrets. Given that trade secrets are no longer protected once they become public, the question is how much more they should be doing to manage this risk.

As well as revealing the challenges clients face, the campaign also provides a trade secrets checklist to help companies like yours better protect its valuable information.

We encourage you to access The Board Ultimatum: Protect and Preserve (The Rising Importance of Safeguarding Trade Secrets) report now and hope you find it useful.

We would be happy to walk you through these findings and, when necessary, have a discussion on how we can help you protect your trade secrets. For questions, please contact one of our trade secrets experts below.

Richard Gough


Michael Hart


Guenther Heckelmann


David Lashway

Washington, DC

Andy Leck


Nathalie Marchand


Lorenzo de Martinis


José María Méndez


John Murphy


Rembert Niebel


Kevin O’ Brien

Washington, DC

Grace Shao


Marcela Trigo

Rio de Janeiro


Richard Gough is a partner in Baker McKenzie Sydney, Australia. Mr. Gough has advised clients from a wide range of industry sectors including pharmaceuticals and medical devices; information technology and electronics; motor vehicles; media and education; apparel, cosmetics and fashion; food and beverage; and financial products.


Günther Heckelmann is ranked by top legal directories — including Chambers Global, JUVE Handbuch Wirtschaftskanzleien, PLC Which lawyer? and Expert Guides - Labour and Employment Lawyers — as one of the leading German labor and employment lawyers. He is chair of the Firm’s Global Employment & Compensation Group. From 1998 to 2007, Günther was managing partner of Baker McKenzie Germany. Günther is admitted as a lawyer focusing on the area of labor and employment law.


David C. Lashway leads Baker McKenzie’s global cybersecurity practice and is a partner in Washington, DC. His practice involves advising clients on complex internal investigations, as well as administrative, civil and criminal litigation matters


Andy Leck is the managing principal of Baker McKenzie.Wong & Leow. Mr. Leck is recognised by the world’s leading industry and legal publications as a leader in his field. Asian Legal Business notes that he “always gives good, quick advice, [is] client-focused and has strong technical knowledge for his areas of practice”. Alongside his current role as managing principal, Mr. Leck has held several leadership positions in the Firm and externally as a leading IP practitioner. He currently serves on the International Trademark Association's Board of Directors and is a member of the Singapore Copyright Tribunal.


Nathalie Marchand practices in the Intellectual Property Group of Baker McKenzie. She has developed extensive experience in complex intellectual property litigation before French courts. She assists companies in the protection and exploitation of intellectual property rights including the drafting and negotiation of IP agreements and on IP aspects of transactional matters. Nathalie Marchand joined Baker McKenzie from Jones Day in 2011 and was appointed Partner in 2015.


José María Méndez is a partner in Baker McKenzie´s Madrid office. He has over 17 years of experience in the area of intellectual property and media law. He is a member of the European Intellectual Property Practice Group, as well as the Global Media Committee. Mr. Méndez has been named by the most prestigious legal directories as a leading practitioner in intellectual property and media law.


John M. Murphy is a partner in Baker McKenzie LLP Chicago. John's practice is focused on complex business disputes, primarily in the areas of unfair competition, business divorce, partnership and joint venture disputes, shareholder derivative claims, fiduciary wrongdoing, post acquisition disputes, trade secret theft, employee raiding, distributor disputes, intellectual property infringement, fraud and related business torts.


Kevin O'Brien is a partner in Washington, DC and former Chair of the North America Intellectual Property Practice Group. Mr. O'Brien has served as Co-Chair of the Patent Litigation Committee of the Federal Circuit Bar Association and has taught a course on Trade and Competition at Johns Hopkins University. He is currently Chair of the Trade Secrets Business Unit of the Global IPTech Group. He has more than 30 years of experience practicing in the areas of intellectual property and international trade law, with an emphasis on counseling and enforcement. Mr. O'Brien has been recognized as a leading lawyer by Chambers USA (District of Columbia) and has been selected as one of the "best lawyers" for IP law in Best Lawyers in America and in the Legal 500.


Grace Shao practices in the areas of intellectual property, technology licensing and dispute resolution. She has advised and made presentations on various intellectual property issues for several organizations — including Judicial Yuan, Intellectual Property Office, ECCT IPL Committee, the American Institute in Taiwan and Technology Law Symposium. Ms. Shao also authored IP-related articles for Economic Daily News.


Marcela Trigo is a partner in Trench Rossi Watanabe in the Intellectual Property and Information Technology Group and has over 10 years of experience in complex litigation, before state and federal courts in Brazil, having acted in several leading cases in the area of Industrial Property. Her practice focus, Acts primarily representing clients in legal disputes involving patents, trade secrets, data package exclusivity, unfair competition and regulatory compliance, in particular in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and telecommunications fields. Trench Rossi Watanabe and Baker McKenzie have executed a strategic cooperation agreement for consulting on foreign law.