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A trade secret is information that offers a commercial advantage, which is protected to keep such information from being revealed to potential competitors. For example, the recipe for Coke is a trade secret. You must prove you took precautions to keep a trade secret, or protection offered by law for a such a secret won't hold up in court. If you patent an idea, do you need trade secret protection as well? The answer is, it depends.
In some cases, a trade secret is best. In other situations, having both types of protection is best. Trade secrets have unlimited time frames as long as no one reveals them, including an unhappy employee. If someone else accidentally comes up with your secret recipe, the protection is no longer in force while patent protection would be in this case. While patent litigation is one of the most expensive types of litigation, enforcing a trade secret will cost less.
While keeping a secret is hard to do, patent protection has its drawbacks, too. People can improve upon your own patents before you do or find a way to go around the scope of your claims. All in all, both types of protection should be researched and considered, and you may want to get a patent attorney to help you decide if one, the other or both are best for your invention protection.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|