Determining Whether a Trade Secret Was Misappropriated

Oil field, oil pump in the work

Establishing misuse of a rubber formulation

To minimize the downtime associated with part replacement and maintenance, high-performance rubber components used in fracking and drilling equipment must be resistant to aggressive wear conditions at elevated temperatures and pressures. In the oil and gas industry, enhancing these key physical properties is often the focus of rubber formulation development.


Rubber formulating, or compounding, is not necessarily straightforward. Companies spend significant time evaluating components, proportions, process steps, and sequencing, including synergistic and antagonistic effects, to develop materials with the desired properties. These materials are typically difficult to reverse engineer because the curing process and other chemical reactions alter the composition of starting components to yield the end-use product. This combination makes a rubber formulation a valuable asset.

When exploring for subterranean oil and gas reservoirs, many energy companies rely on proprietary rubber formulations for components used in high-pressure pumps and drilling equipment. Our client expended significant resources to develop a unique rubber formulation with exceptional abrasion resistance and extended service life compared to existing commercial products.

Much to their surprise, they learned that a competitor had launched a similar project within weeks of hiring a former employee who had been involved in their compounding process. Exponent was then retained to analyze the development of each material and assist in determining whether their trade secret knowledge was present in the competitive product as a result of the former employee's actions.


Formulations and processes can be trade secrets and often require extensive development efforts that must be adequately protected. These efforts are critical because a trade secret has commercial value that is derived from specific knowledge. Exponent's staff has the training and education to evaluate these formulations and processes, their development time, the potential to reverse engineer them, and the steps taken to protect the knowledge. In addition, we can readily assess a trade secret's function, value and differentiating performance characteristics. 

Exponent's Impact

Exponent's analysis supported the conclusion that another party had used our client's trade secret rubber formulation without their consent and that the information they derived could not have been gained from the public domain, past knowledge, or reverse engineering of the product. Our experts' extensive knowledge of the oil and gas industry, as well as the rubber formulating process, was critical in demonstrating that the competitor's time to market, formulation development efforts, and commercialized rubber products were simply not feasible but for the misuse of protected trade secret information.

What Can We Help You Solve?

Exponent provides rigorous technical support for high-stakes intellectual property claims. When it comes to issues pertaining to materials and trade secrets, we are skilled at deconstructing complex technical information and scenarios, helping you understand the facts and move forward with confidence.