When it comes to protecting your inventions, patents and trade secrets are two of the most popular options. While patent protection is granted in exchange for the disclosure of the invention to the public, trade secret protection is granted to those who take reasonable steps to keep their invention secret. Patents and trade secrets present opposite options, and it's important to understand the pros and cons of each before deciding which one is right for you. The legal protection of trade secrets is due to their intrinsically secret nature. Trade secret protection is immediate and much less expensive if the security costs necessary to keep information secret are excluded.
Trade secrets do not require a formal application process with the government, and for trade secret protection to apply, you only need to take reasonable steps to keep information secret. The patent application process is lengthy and costly. If you need to publicly discuss how your invention works, a patent is the best way to maintain a competitive or defensive advantage. However, if a competitor reverse-engineers a trade secret, the holders of the secret have no legal protection. While some technologies may have contractual or other restrictions when it comes to reverse engineering, reverse engineering often provides a way to develop an invention independently, making trade secret protection ineffective. If a competing party reverse-engineered a patented technology or device, the patentee would have legal protection.
With a patent, you can prevent others from copying what you've shared and warn your competitors that if they develop a competing product, they could face a patent infringement lawsuit. An issued patent allows the applicant or the assignee of the patent to bring an action for infringement against someone who copies the claimed invention and manufactures, uses, sells or sells the claimed invention without their permission. A patent remains in force for 20 years from the effective date of the application and, first of all, the process of obtaining a patent is costly and time-consuming.When deciding whether your information should be protected as a patent or a trade secret, you need to consider all of these factors. Additionally, there are other factors that should be taken into account such as cost, time frame for obtaining protection, potential for infringement litigation, and potential for reverse engineering. It is important to weigh all of these factors carefully before making a decision. Patents provide strong legal protection against competitors who copy your invention.
However, they require disclosure of your invention to the public in exchange for that protection. Trade secrets provide immediate protection but require that you take reasonable steps to keep your invention secret. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages and it is important to understand them before deciding which one is right for you. Use our FREE checklist to help you decide if now is the right time to start moving forward in the patent process. This checklist will help you evaluate all of the factors involved in deciding whether patent or trade secret protection is right for you.