Trade Secrets – Top 10 Questions
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Question 1 – What is a trade secret?

A trade secret can be defined as (i) information (ii) that remains secret to others (iii) through reasonable means to protect its secrecy and (iv) creates actual or potential economic value for its owner.

In other words, first, a trade secret can be nearly any type of information such as processes, tools, programs, techniques, formulas, plans, patterns, compounds, compilations, devices, etc. that are kept secret by the owner and not easily obtainable or readily known by others. One of the most popular trade secrets in the world is Coca-Cola’s recipe for its Coca-Cola carbonated beverage drink. Nearly everyone has drank Coca-Cola but almost no one knows its secret recipe – its most valuable trade secret.

Second, the trade secret nearly always has to remain secret to remain a trade secret. If the trade secret is known by others, it most likely is not a trade secret.

Third, the owner needs to take some measures to protect the trade secret. For example, the owner of a paint company could lock all the recipes for its paint in a vault and only allow the owners and chemists to know the secret recipes.

Fourth, a trade secret usually needs to create some type of actual or potential economic value for its owner. This generally means that the information needs to have some type of monetary value.

Question 2 – What are the differences between a trade secret, copyright, trademark, and patent?

To answer this question you need to know the definitions of a trade secret, copyright, trademark, and patent. See the answer to Question 1 for the definition of a trade secret.

A copyright is a legal concept that protects works of authorship (e.g. such as short stories, books, music, plays, choreographies, architectures, movies, etc.) that are fixed in some kind of tangible medium of expression (e.g. on paper, on a recording device, in any kind of fixed material). But a copyright does not protect the actual ideas, procedures, processes, systems, or discoveries in the copyright. For example, if you write a song about love, you cannot copyright the idea of love. Rather, you can only copyright your expression of love in the song.

A trademark is a legal concept that protects words, names, symbols, logos, and devices used in connection with goods or services to indicate the source of those goods and services. In short, a trademark is a source identifier. This means a trademark is a "mark" used for consumers so they can easily identify and differentiate between different products and services in the marketplace.

A patent is a legal concept that grants protections to individuals who create a new invention. Technically speaking, a patent grants the holder of the patent the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention.

Question 3 – Can I Register or File My Trade Secret with the Government for Protection?

No. Unlike patents, trademarks, and copyrights, trade secrets cannot be filed or registered with any government body or agency for protection. A trade secret remains a “secret” based on the fact that others do not know about it. And a trade secret remains protected as long as it remains unknown to others.

Next, we’ll go over trade secret questions 4 – 6.

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