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Did colorist get caught red-handed swiping trade secrets?

A trade secret is any information that is valuable to a business, derives some of its value from not being widely known and is subject to reasonable efforts to keep it secret.

Sacramento readers should keep that in mind as we tell them about a New York beauty salon that claims it had some valuable information stolen from it by a former stylist.

The salon, John Sahag Ltd., filed a lawsuit last week claiming that one of its former stylists swiped
the “Color Formula Cards” for at least some of the 200 to 400 clients she had when she left to work for a rival salon.

Those cards included customer contact information, but more importantly, they also had the precise chemical formula for the customers’ desired color. Having that chemical formula saves a colorist from having to experiment, hit-or-miss style, to find the right shade.

So, are those “Color Formula Cards” a trade secret?

If the exact chemical formula for a customer’s color was developed by a John Sahag colorist, then it seems like it would not be widely known in the industry. And if having a colorist who knows exactly what he or she wants keeps a customer coming back to John Sahag, rather than to any other salon, then it seems like valuable information. The sticking point might be whether John Sahag took reasonable steps to keep this information secret.

Of course, trade secrets are not just the province of beauty salons. Trade secret protection applies to just about any business in any field. If you are a business owner, a conversation with an intellectual property attorney about whether you have information that would qualify for trade secret protection might be worth your while.

Source: The New York Daily News, “Stylist allegedly stole top-secret hair ‘Color Formula Cards,’” Andy Mai and Barbara Ross, July 9, 2013

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