Trade secrets and other IPRs

Contrary to other IPR titles which, in order to be opposed to thrid parties, need to be filed and granted by the competent administration, to protect a trade secret you cannot go through an application process. A trade secret requires you to actively keep the information secret.

Theoretically trade secret protection could last forever if the secret is carefully maintained. For example,inventions and processes that do not meet patentability criteria can be protected under trade secret law.

The advantage of a trade secret is that as long as the secret is properly maintained, the secret cannot be used by business competitors. One of the most famous examples is the Coca Cola formula that has now been kept secret for more than 100 years. Had Coca Cola patented the formula, it would have fallen into the public domain a long time ago and anyone would be allowed to reproduce the exact same product.

When protecting information by means of trade secret, it is vital to restrict access to the information and to ensure that those with access sign a non-disclosure agreement, also known as a confidentiality agreement. This ensures that in the case of misappropriation resulting from industrial espionage for instance, or violation of a non-disclosure agreement, it is possible to bring an action before the courts.

Last update: 22 November 2012

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