Businesses often develop valuable ideas and information, or "know-how." Know-how may include a manufacturing process, a customer list, a formula, or a business method, that gives the business a competitive advantage in producing and selling their goods or services. Much of the value of this know-how arises from the fact that the business's competitors do not have access to it. If a business's know-how is found to be a "trade secret," the business may prohibit its employees and business associates from divulging it to others, and prohibit competitors from using improper means to obtain it or from using the information once obtained.
A trade secret is often defined as any pattern, formula, device or collection of data used in a business, and which gives one an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.