While recent Supreme Court decisions have narrowed certain patent protections for pharmaceutical manufacturers and other life sciences companies, drug makers, particularly biotechs, may find relief in the new Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), signed into law on May 11 by President Barack Obama.

According to the independent bipartisan Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, the US loses about $300 billion annually due to trade secrets theft. The DTSA was established to curb that trend.

The law has several provisions important to the biopharmaceutical industry, said Philadelphia lawyer Rob Baron, a partner in the litigation and intellectual property departments at Ballard Spahr LLP.

One of the benefits of the new law is its ability to preserve IP in situations where protection isn't available under the patenting process or the scope of a firm's patent was narrowed because of the Supreme Court's rulings in cases like Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories Inc., Baron pointed out.

Firms that traditionally have looked to patenting their discoveries, like methods of manufacturing, to safeguard their IP may instead turn to the broad federal strength of the DTSA as a remedy on which to rely in the face of those recent rulings—as long as the companies have kept the details of their innovations secret, he said.

Another important aspect of the DTSA is that is establishes a uniform federal standard for trade secret misappropriation and theft—allowing companies to craft one set of nondisclosure policies. Prior to this new law, the protection of trade secrets in the US previously was a matter left to the states—resulting in a hodgepodge of laws throughout the country.

Now, thanks to the DTSA, "there's a uniform set of rules," Baron declared.