Trade Secrets vs. Patents Part 1

Posted by on Jun 14, 2013 in Intellectual Property

If you have invented a new product, technology, formula, method, or process, you generally have two options to protect your invention: (1) obtain a patent for the invention; or (2) maintain the invention as a “trade secret.”

But, what’s the difference between a “patent” and a “trade secret”?  A “patent” is a legally-recognized limited monopoly on an invention which the government grants to an inventor in exchange for the inventor disclosing how to make and use the invention.  The monopoly granted to an owner under a patent lasts less than 20 years.  A “trade secret,” as implied by its name, is not generally known or disclosed to the public or readily ascertainable by others, and by virtue of its secrecy, confers an economic benefit to its owner.  No term could go on forever.  The owner must take reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy in order for it to qualify as a “trade secret.”

BUT BE WARE: One cannot both patent an invention and maintain it as a trade secret!  This is because the disclosure requirements for obtaining a patent nullify the secrecy of the invention.

The decision whether to obtain a patent or maintain an invention as a trade secret must be considered in light of the circumstances and facts of each individual case….

TUNE IN to Trade Secrets vs. Patents Part 2 for a discussion on when a patent is a better option, or when you should maintain your invention as a trade secret.

And, as always, please contact an attorney if you have any questions concerning what we’ve mentioned in this blog.