Under certain circumstances, it may be wiser to protect proprietary information by treating it as a “trade secret” rather than applying for patent protection.
In general, a “trade secret” may consist of “any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one’s business, and which provides an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.”
A trade secret may be product specifications, drawings, jigs, fixtures, customer lists, marketing data, financial information, or other proprietary data which is not generally known in the industry.
Trade secrets must be treated as secret information, and steps must be taken to limit access by unauthorized individuals or personnel. Indeed, careless in protecting such secrets may jeopardize its status. As such, it is important for new companies to adopt policies to maintain trade secret protection, such as an invention and secrecy agreement.