What are Trade Secrets and Do I Need One?

Intellectual property comprises copyrights, patents, trademarks, and, to a certain extent, trade secrets.

Protecting Trade Secrets
Trade secrets are different from the other three in that with copyrights, patents, and trademarks, you file with the government, and the government gives you protection for a certain amount of time in exchange for disclosing your invention, product, or mark. What can be a trade secret? Recipes are a good example of a trade secret. But it actually can be anything from sales methods, distribution methods, customer lists, supplier lists, manufacturing processes, etc.

In the case of a trademark, a logo is used to distinguish your goods from others.

A trade secret, however, gives you protection in exchange for keeping something secret. The Coca-Cola formula is the most famous example of a trade secret. If you take certain steps in keeping your trade secret confidential, you will have protection if it is acquired by someone else through nefarious means.

Implementing a trade secret may be an action that many smaller businesses should consider.

Patents are very costly, anywhere from $10,000 to upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they can take anywhere from three to four years from start to finish. A trade secret, however, can be implemented right away. By working with an attorney, you can put certain protocols in place, such as non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, certain mechanisms for disclosure to the smallest number of people possible, and other means which indicate that you are trying to keep the trade secret confidential.

Many times clients think that these certain items cannot be patented and, therefore, they do not talk to an attorney.

However, in talking to an attorney, you may realize that trade secret protection is the best way to proceed. By implementing some relatively simple steps, you can obtain protection and add value to your company. Additionally, if you have a trade secret and someone has stolen it, such as a former employee or someone who has obtained it through nefarious means, you may actually have legal recourse against that person. However, if someone reverse-engineers your trade secret, that is a different story. Essentially, the fear of trade secrets is that the holder is only protected if somebody steals the secret. If someone is reverse-engineering your trade secret, then you have no protection, unlike a patent which allows you to prevent others from manufacturing your invention. Many items, like recipes, are generally not patentable, so a trade secret is the best way to protect them. Speaking with an attorney will help you determine whether a trade secret is right for you and the steps and mechanisms you will then need to put in place. It is very important to do so from the day you begin using your trade secret, because the more disclosure that occurs from the beginning, the less likely it is that a trade secret status will apply to your secret.

The price of obtaining trade secret status is much lower than patent protection.

Albuquerque Business Law, P.C. generally offers a competitive flat fee for its trade secret package, whether it be for recipes, business methods, or other types of commercial secrets. The package will give you everything you need to put mechanisms in place and protect the trade secret for as long as you would like. If someone has stolen your trade secret, talk to us today to find out what recourse you may have.

 

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About Kameron W. Kramer

Kameron W. Kramer is licensed to practice law in New Mexico, as well as before the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a registered Patent Attorney. Kameron has technical expertise gained from his work as an engineer in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries. His legal focus is on intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Kameron combines this technical and legal expertise to assist his clients in the starting, planning, and development of start-ups and established companies.