How to protect your trade secrets

Do you know what a trade secret is? Do you know how to go about identifying and protecting your trade secrets?  Read on to find out more about how you can manage these vital assets for your business.

Trade secrets are an unregistered form of IP.  There are no records maintained by Intellectual Property Offices. Your business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers by protecting your trade secrets.

A trade secret is something that is not known or capable of being reverse engineered by others, for example a practice, manufacturing process, formula, business plan, algorithm, software code, marketing information, failed test result, competitive analysis, product road-map, non-patented invention, data (raw and processed) such as client data, supplier data, test data, cost data and maintenance data.

Trade secrets are:

  • not in the public domain
  • kept secret
  • of value now or in the future

We advise protecting your trade secrets by documenting them, by controlling and limiting access and by having a legal framework in place prior to sharing.

In order to document your trade secret, you should keep a record of the metadata connected with it to summarise basic information about the trade secret, for example:

  • Name/title
  • Date created
  • Creator
  • Physical location
  • Legal owner
  • Responsible manager
  • Type of trade secret
  • Person(s) with authorised access
  • Costs associated
  • Valuation
  • Protection mechanisms in place
  • Shared (and if so with when and with whom)
  • Expiration date (if applicable)
  • Legal/IP advisor
  • Financial advisor
  • Reviewed (when and by whom)

Once you have documented your trade secrets, you will need to take practical steps and precautions to ensure that they remain secret to your business. Next week we will be sharing some steps you should consider in this regard.

If you need any advice or assistance regarding trade secrets, or other intellectual property, please contact mail@machlachlan.ie or info@ansons.co.uk for further info.

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