Trade secrets comprise information such as formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, and processes that are not generally known and can provide an economic advantage over competitors. A federal trade secret statute was recently enacted and applies alongside state laws.
Because trade secret protection is indefinite (lasting as long as the information continues to meet the applicable requirements), sometimes it may be preferable to maintain information as a trade secret rather than seek a patent on it. This may be because the information is not likely patentable or more enduring protection is desired than that provided by a patent. In some cases, it may be desirable to file a patent application but hold back some information as a trade secret if the information isn’t needed for the application to meet any legal requirements.
No application needs to be made to protect a trade secret, but it may be wise to adopt a regimented program of protection to guard any secrets that have value to your business, including requiring any third parties to impose similar protections on trade secrets that you disclose to them.
Some information that is valuable to a business may be difficult or impossible to maintain in secrecy and thus unprotectable as a trade secret. If you’re working with or selling to another party who might use your know-how in competition with you or in some other undesirable way, there are contractual measures that may be employed to protect you.
An experienced IP attorney should be enlisted to help craft secrecy policies and draft and negotiate any confidentiality agreement or set of provisions intended to cover trade secrets. Our seasoned IP attorneys are ready to help.