Naked Price and Pharmaceutical Trade Secret Overreach

Robin Feldman & Charles Tait Graves

Trade secret has drifted from a quiet backwater doctrine to a pervasive force in intellectual property. As always, the risk of distortion is great when a legal arena is developing and expanding rapidly. Nowhere do the theoretical tensions of trade secret law appear in such stark relief as in the modern pharmaceutical debates, where the heart of the theoretical question involves whether pricing is a proper subject for trade secrecy claims.

We aim to bring trade secret into greater harmony with broad concepts that reach across all intellectual property regimes. As with other areas of intellectual property law, trade secret law is not a mere contest of private commercial interests. Rather, it embeds substantial dedication to the public interest, reflecting utilitarian balancing of key societal interests. In this context, we develop the concept of “thin” trade secret, looking to the analogous concepts in other intellectual property regimes. Such approaches embody the recognition that intellectual property rights are not solid monoliths, presenting an impenetrable wall through which no party but the rights holder may pass. Rather, they are brilliantly nimble and subtle systems, deftly threading their way among various societal goals.

This Article offers the potential of anchoring trade secret more firmly to its theoretical base, as well as bringing trade secret closer to the family of other intellectual property regimes. Although squabbling, chaotic, and somewhat dispersed, all members of this time-honored family can learn from each other, sharing their battle-worn wisdom with the newest, young upstart.     

Recommended citation: Robin Feldman & Charles Tait GravesNaked Price and Pharmaceutical Trade Secret Overreach, 22 Yale J.L. & Tech. 61 (2020).