Time Travel & The Grandfather Paradox

Time travel is the concept of movement between certain points in time, analogous to movement between different points in space by an object or a person, typically using a hypothetical device known as a time machine, in the form of a vehicle or of a portal. Time travel is usually taken to mean that a person’s mind and body remain unchanged, with their memories intact, while their location in time is changed.

What has this to do with trade secrets and trade secret asset management you may ask? Let’s assume that an alleged trade secret theft took place on 15 November 2015. A court case then takes place months later, say on 27 February 2017. At that court case, the plaintiff has to prove three things, namely that the information was a trade secret as of 15 November 2015 and that the accused stole the trade secret and that the theft of the trade secret caused damage to the company.

Of course the defendant will try to prove that information was not a trade secret as of 15 November 2015 or that no misappropriation took place or that no damage was caused. Although the court case is taking place on 27 February 2017, the plaintiff must prove that the information was being treated as a trade secret at the time of the alleged theft, i.e. back on 15 November 2015. Whether the plaintiff treats the information as a trade secret on 27 February 2017, the date of the court case, is irrelevant. Rather the plaintiff needs to transport everyone in that court back in time to 15 November 2015 and show them (rather than tell them) that the information was indeed being treated as a trade secret.

A common objection to the idea of traveling back in time is put forth in the ‘grandfather paradox‘. This paradox is commonly described with a person who travels to the past and kills their own grandfather, preventing the existence of their father or mother, and therefore their own existence.

If a person was able to go back in time, inconsistencies and contradictions would ensue if the time traveler were to change anything. There is a contradiction if the past becomes different from the way it is. Some philosophers question whether these paradoxes make time travel impossible. Other philosophers answer this paradox by arguing that it might be the case that backward time travel could be possible but that it would be impossible to actually change the past in any way.

This ‘grandfather paradox’ is also an issue for those involved with trade secret asset management.

When it comes to trade secret asset management, it is imperative that the person going back in time to access the historical trade secret metadata does not change such data. When the plaintiff transports everyone in that court back in time to 15 November 2015 and shows them that the information was indeed being treated as a trade secret, the plaintiff will also need to show them that such evidence has not been altered subsequently.

A company’s trade secret asset management solution should therefore possess this ability to go back in time, as well as this ability to preserve the historical metadata. In other works, it should have a ‘time machine’ built in.

Donal O’Connell is IPEG consultant. He designed a trade secret management tools for companies and legal & IP firms, as well as accountancy & tax firms, assisting them and their client with the management of these assets. The tool contains a ‘time machine’!