Protecting Your Innovation through Trade Secret

What is a trade secret?

Trade secret is a separate discipline of intellectual property, the flip-side of patent protection. With technology, process, technique, or proprietary information, rather than publicly disclose such information for a time-limited window of exclusivity (e.g., patents), the owner may simply protect this valuable resource through protective measures that prevent access and disclosure.

Do I have to apply for or register proprietary information as a trade secret with the government?

No. Trade secret protection is available if a business or party has information of value that it takes reasonable measures to protect. There is not set checklist of measures that one must undertake, but having proprietary information locked away and/or secretly housed is one of several measures that may be utilized. A business or party may also segregate personel so that no single person knows every aspect of the technique, process, or information.

Does it protect the business from reverse engineering?

No. Unlike patent, which allows the patent owner to exclude unauthorized making, using, selling, and/or importing/exporting of the protected technology or process, trade secret leaves the product or service exposed to reverse engineering. However, having key processes and techniques hidden behind layers of protective secrecy creates the competetive advantage many business operations are seeking.

How long does trade secret protection last?

Theoretically, trade secret protection can last into perpetuity (forever). So long as the key techniques, processes, and/or information are properly protected through secrecy, the trade secret is protectible against misappropriation. Coca-Cola's beverage formula continues with trade secret protection despite being well-over 120 years old.