Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Intellectual Property 101: What Your Business needs to know about Trade Secret Law; Forbes, July 31, 2017

Art Neill, Forbes; Intellectual Property 101: What Your Business needs to know about Trade Secret Law

"Co-author Teri Karobonik contributed to this post*
There are some things you don’t want your competitors to know about your business: customer lists, sales data, secret formulas for your products. As you now know by reading our guidescopyright protection doesn’t extend to lists/data, and although trademark law may prevent others from labeling their competing products in certain ways, it does little to prevent your competitors from misappropriating your formulas to create knock off products.
Enter trade secrets: the fourth major area of intellectual property which protects the public disclosure of your closely-guarded non-public information. Trade secret’s closest cousin in the IP world is patent law. In fact, since getting trade secret protection doesn’t require the expensive and time-consuming formal registration of patent law, some companies/inventors choose to forgo patent registration entirely and protect their products exclusively through trade secret before going to market.  
That said, even though patents and trade secrets can potentially protect similar information, trade secrets are distinct from patents for a huge variety of reasons. The most significant reason, of course, is that patented processes are granted protection  only after the inventor publicly discloses the invention whereas trade secrets are only protected until the information is made public.

Ensuring that your trade secrets are protected may be the only way to secure your competitive advantage in the marketplace. Conversely, ensuring that you don’t mistakenly disclose other’s trade secrets will keep you away from legal liability if you are a consultant, sales person, or just an employee entrusted with sensitive, confidential  information.
In this fourth and final part of this series (see part 1 on Copyright, part 2 about Trademark law, and part 3 on Patents), we’ll break down the last of the 4 major areas of intellectual property protection (trade secrets) and explain:
  • what trade secrets protect;
  • how trade secret protection is granted;
  • whether registration is required, and if you’ll need help from an attorney to protect your trade secrets;
  • how long trade secret protection lasts;
  • what rights you are granted if you do qualify for trade secret protection."

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