Trade Secrets & Know-How
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. Unlike patents, 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 seeking 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. This is an issue I generally raise in the course of preparing a patent application.
No applications need to be made to protect a trade secret, but you should adopt a regimented program of protection to guard any secrets that have value to your business. Any third parties should be required to impose similar protections on trade secrets that you disclose to them. I can help your business implement best practices to protect your trade secrets effectively.
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 used to protect you in advance.