IP Essentials: Q&A Series

Q What makes something a trade secret? A The information has independent economic value, actual or potential, and it is not readily known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use. Q In which cases may trade secret protection be beneficial? A This varies on a case-by case basis, but trade secrets may generally be beneficial in the following circumstances: • the subject matter of the trade secret cannot be protected by patents , copyrights , and/or trademarks ; • the time frame that the secrets may have value is either shorter than the time required to obtain a patent or longer than the 20 years of protection available under patent law; • the likelihood is high that the information can be kept secret; • the subject matter is not readily ascertainable; • the secret is related to a manufacturing process. Q Can a trade secret lose its value? A Yes. The protectability of a trade secret may easily be lost if steps are not taken to maintain proprietary information as confidential. Trade secrets require the use of “reasonable efforts” under their unique circumstances to maintain secrecy.

TRADE SECRETS Trade secrets include any and all technical or business proprietary information that gives the holder an advantage over competitors who do not possess the information. For exam- ple, trade secrets may include technical formulas, manufacturing techniques, processes, programs, business methods, customer and supplier lists, and other business information.



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