If you have an invention that is not eligible for a patent, you can still protect it by claiming it as a trade secret. Trade secrets can protect information that is valuable non-public information. The question to ask is whether your invention can allow your business to gain an advantage over your competitors because your competitors do not have the information. If the answer is “yes,” then it likely qualifies as a trade secret.
There are many advantages to protecting your proprietary information as a trade secret:
- Abstract ideas. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that if a method is drawn to an abstract idea, it will not be eligible for a patent simply because it is implemented with a computer. However, as long as the information or concept has value and has been kept confidential, it can be protected as trade secrets.
- Long-term protection. Patents usually last up to 20 years while a trade secret has the potential to last forever. As long as the trade secret remains confidential and classified, the trade secret protection does not expire. The key is keeping it “secret” because once the information is made public, the trade secret is lost.
- Inexpensive protection. Obtaining trade secret protection is typically quicker and not as expensive as getting a patent. However, you must implement ongoing strategies for ensuring the information remains confidential, including limiting the number of people who know the secret and ensuring those individuals sign non-disclosure agreements.
- Notoriety. An added benefit of obtaining a trade secret is it creates mystique for your business. Marketers take advantage of recipes being a “family secret” for a reason – it creates a buzz about your company which increases your bottom line.
If you have questions regarding patents, trade secrets or other ways to protect your proprietary information, contact the attorneys at The Swenson Law Firm.