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Trade Secret Protection*
by Gary L. Baker, Patent Attorney
Trade secret law and patent grants are the two most important means for a creative person to protect their ideas. A trade secret will be protected by state law where the owner of valuable information takes steps to protect the secret. A patent is the right, granted by the federal government, to exclude all others from practicing a new and nonobvious invention. The choice of protection depends on the nature of the invention and the expectations of the inventor.
A successful business often accumulates methods and information that are the basis of their competitiveness. Ideas, such as efficient manufacturing processes or customer lists, are valuable secrets for a business owner. These ideas are trade secrets protected by most state tort and unfair competition laws when the owner takes reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality. In other words, if the owner protects business secrets from the public, competitors may not legally obtain them through spying or through the loose lips of employees.
Reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality of trade secrets can include identification of the trade secrets, exclusion of secrets from public view and requiring employees to sign agreements not to disclose confidential information. A reasonably protected trade secret may not be taken through deception, spying, bribery of employees or breach by contracting partners. A trade secret is protected indefinitely if it retains value and is not generally known in the field of trade. However, trade secret law protects the owner only from loss of the trade secret by improper means. Competitors remain free to independently develop the same ideas, even by examination of the businesss product (reverse engineering) or examination of public documents such as environmental impact reports.
Trade secret protection is well suited to ideas that are easily hidden and hard to reverse engineer. Patent protection is often better for inventions exposed to the public or inventions that shortly become obsolete.
If you have ideas or inventions that should be protected with trade secret law or patent rights, contact BioPatent Intellectual Property Services for inexpensive personal service.
* See an attorney in your state for advice particular to your situation.
Comntact Gary: Baker@BioPatent.com
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