An additional category of intellectual property is trade secrets. In many cases, you will find it necessary to protect your intellectual property with a patent, copyright or trademark. But there are likely some elements of your business where that protection may not be optimal.
You may have an internal process, a recipe, or information such as customer lists, for example, that are very valuable to your business, and if you disclose them through the formal and very public process of a patent application, you would possibly lose much if not all of their value.
Our attorney at Karen B. Tripp can work with you and assist in reviewing your intellectual property portfolio and determining which items may be best protected by treating them as a trade secret.
One disadvantage with a patent is that it expires. Congress has presumed that the invention of something useful is worthy of protection, but it has also made the judgment that the protection should not be infinite.
You are permitted to exclusively exploit your invention for a term of years, but after your patent has expired, your competitors are free to use it.
The Costs Of Intellectual Property
Protecting your intellectual property is never free. Patents and trademarks all carry various degrees of maintenance fees and constant and ongoing surveillance is needed to adequately “police” your IP portfolio. This is one of the costs to be factored into the calculation of how to best protect your IP materials.
A trade secret may be less expensive than some other methods of intellectual property protection, as the control typically involves your personnel within your facilities. Trade secret protection may still be a complex process, employing confidentiality agreements or nondisclosure agreements (NDA) and limiting access to individuals on a need-to-know basis or other combinations of methods to ensure that secrecy is maintained.
We can help you understand what you need to do to protect a trade secret and can discuss the situations where it may be advisable to use a trade secret.