Trade Secrets: More Prolific Than Patents

Trade secrets may be the most difficult form of intellectual property to both identify and protect. Items as simple as a customer mailing list or as complex as a chemical process can exist as a trade secret under California law. It has been estimated that for every invention that is patented, there may be ten inventions that are kept as trade secrets. The advantage of keeping an invention as a trade secret rather than patent it lies in the fact that if a trade secret can remain a secret, it lives on indefinitely (e.g., Coca Cola's® formula is over a century old), while a patent last only 20 years from its filing date. However, some inventions do not lend well to being kept as trade secrets and in such cases, a patent is a better choice.

If the success of your California business relies on an integral piece of information, don't let an employee or third party leak your trade secret. Contact our attorneys in Sacramento to obtain maximum protection for your intellectual property.

What is a Trade Secret?

The simplest definition of a trade secret is: something that is not generally known and that obtains value due to the fact that it is not generally known. Also reasonable steps to keep an item secret must be taken before a trade secret is held to exist under California law. There is no formal registration process with trade secrets, as there is with patents, trademarks and copyrights. Instead, all the trade secret owner must do to have the law render protection is to take reasonable steps to maintain the secrecy of the trade secret. For example, if the trade secret lies in software then a "reasonable step" might be to encrypt the software or allow only certain administrators access to it. If the trade secret is a chemical process, a "reasonable step" might be to complete the process at two separate locations so that no employee from a single location can know all the steps in the process.

Should I Protect My Idea as a Trade Secret?

At Costello Law Corporation, our attorneys can let you know if trade secret protection is the right move for you. Depending on the nature of your idea or invention, we will help you decide if trade secret or patent protection is more appropriate.

Still Have Questions?

Our highly experienced lawyers can answer your questions and provide you with business advice on how to develop an effective trade secret program for you or your company.

Contact us for more information about trade secrets and all forms of intellectual property.