Trade secrets are the best-kept secrets of the Intellectual Property (IP) industry!
In the days of hardware-heavy innovations, it was difficult to protect the ideas with trade secrets, since it is not illegal to reverse-engineer a product. Anyone could bring a product to an expert in reverse engineering and uncover one or more of the innovations that were not protected by patents in order to use them freely in other countries.
As innovation moves to the cloud, for example Software as a Service (SaaS), reverse engineering cannot be done legally, as it would require hacking a secure server.
Protecting your IP with trade secrets can become an option if you take the following active measures to keep it a secret:
There are pros and cons to keeping something a trade secret versus patenting it and careful consideration of all aspects of a given innovation need to be taken into account before deciding to keep it a secret.
Some advantages of keeping your innovation a trade secret include:
If your trade secret becomes publicly disclosed during accidental or legal/illegal reverse engineering, the worldwide protection would be gone and the innovation would be free for everyone to use. However, the upside to this is you may now have a first-to-market advantage!
Remember a patent application becomes public 18 months after filing, at which point, it is free to use in any countries you cannot afford to or chose not to protect it in. However, an issued patent application provides a solid defensive (and offensive) asset.
Natalie Giroux is a pragmatic achiever with extensive experience in the areas of strategic intellectual property management, network performance engineering, traffic management, technical due diligence. She has been with Stratford Managers for over eight years and has been providing strategic virtual IP management services for several small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). She is passionate about maximizing the value of innovation, to learn more contact Natalie.