Protecting Inventions Through Patents and Trade Secrets

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When it comes to protecting a company’s technological innovations and ideas, there are two main options: patents and trade secrets. Let’s explore the unique strategic ideas you need to review in order to decide which of the two will help your company best protect and benefit from your ideas and innovations.

Defining Patents and Trade Secrets

Granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a US patent gives its owner a federally granted monopoly on inventions for a limited period of time – 20 years for utility and plant patents, 14 for design patents. Year – Disclosure of the invention in exchange for a wide public. Under federal law, patent owners have the right to exclude others from using, selling, or importing the patented invention into the US for that period. To be patentable, an invention must be unique and “teachable”—meaning you can’t patent something naturally occurring or unobtainable, and your invention must be patentable in an obvious way. should be outlined which will empower others to practice what you have described once. Patent expiring.

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Alternatively, trade secret generally refers to all types of information the owner of which has made reasonable efforts to keep secret. They generally derive independent economic value from being not known or readily traceable to others, and should not be readily traceable through reasonable means such as reverse engineering. Traditionally, the protection of trade secrets has been governed by a patchwork of individual state laws, with all states but New York and North Carolina implementing some form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA)—a Uniform Act published in 1979, In 2016, Congress enacted the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which provides parties with the right to bring trade secret lawsuits in federal court, and may extend to operations outside the country unless “An act done in the furtherance of crime in the United StatesUnder the UTSA, trade secrets can be “information including formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process.” According to the DTSA, trade secrets “in all forms and types of financial, commercial, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information” regardless of how it is stored, compiled, or memorialized “physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing.” E.g., for trade secrets The qualification is broad, and even abstract ideas may be subject to trade secret protection in the United States.

For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is currently helping many companies and research organizations to predict and identify previously unknown compounds and structures, Such AI-discovered compounds and structures may not be eligible for patent protection, but may be protected as trade secrets as long as they remain generally unknown and not easily traceable.


Another important consideration is that, while utility patents have a lifetime of 20 years from the effective filing date, a properly maintained trade secret can have an unlimited lifetime and remain protected as long as it remains secret. For example, Coca-Cola has been protecting its formula as a trade secret. over 130 years, However, unlike a patent, a trade secret loses all protection once it becomes generally known or developed independently through reasonable means. If a company’s secret is likely to be discovered or independently developed by others or is only important for a limited time, the certainty provided by a patent may outweigh the risks of relying on trade secret protection.

The difference lies in the disclosure

While patents and trade secrets both serve to protect IP, they do so by taking fundamentally opposite approaches to disclosure. Essentially, the value of trade secrets lies in their confidentiality, whereas a patent is something that you have to disclose to the whole world in a clearly defined way.

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Some of the most important policy goals behind the patent legal framework are encouraging early disclosure of useful inventions and ultimately allowing the public to access expired patents. Consequently, a patent application must include a detailed description Enables a person of ordinary skill in the field of the invention to make and use the full scope of the claimed invention without undue use, as well as the inventor’s best method, if any, of practicing the claimed invention. Most importantly, the patent must “with one or more claims specifically point out and clearly claim the subject matter which the inventor or joint inventors consider to be the invention.” Thus, claims define the scope of the patented invention and what the patent holder is entitled to enforce against others.

In direct contrast, trade secret refers to all forms and information of which the owner has made reasonable efforts to keep secret And That acquires independent economic value By not being generally known or easily detectable by the public. “Reasonable efforts” may include: requiring employees to sign nondisclosure agreements with training and periodic reminders of confidentiality obligations, limiting access to a “need to know” basis, IT security measures with— including deploying physical security at office facilities, and promptly investigating and taking action against suspected misappropriation of trade secrets.

Furthermore, a company must be able to keep trade secrets fairly confidential, even if another company is sued for stealing them. Since trade secret protection only extends as long as the underlying information is kept secret, it is important to consider whether an idea or invention can practically be kept secret for the desired period of protection – otherwise, Patent protection may be a better option.

Ultimately, the best method will depend on your business. Industries with an inherent lack of transparency may rely more heavily on trade secrets than patents. For example, cyber security companies may lean toward trade secret protection, as exposing their confidential security algorithms through patents may help them develop competing products or allow hackers to launch tailored attacks. In contrast, companies making consumer-facing electronics rely more heavily on patent protection, as do companies whose products must comply with industry-wide standards, given the transparency surrounding standardization efforts. With the right legal approach, you can find a delicate balance of disclosure, timing and strategy to protect your company’s inventions.

Protecting Inventions Through Patents and Trade Secrets

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