4 things you need to know about trade secrets

Businesses who want to protect their intellectual property could consider trade secret protection – if so, there are four things you need to know about.

Businesses operating in the competitive modern world need to ensure they are fully aware of the range of Intellectual Property (IP) protections available to them. Trade secrets and confidential information protection is a kind of IP that businesses use when they want to protect proprietary information. This is especially important for vital data on how your business runs that you want to stay out of the public domain.

Wrapping your head around the differences between trade secrets and other types of IP can be difficult however – so we decided to look over the four things you need to know about trade secrets.

1. You don't need to register a trade secret

Trade secrets don't need to be registered with IP Australia – they are privy only to your company. This is where their advantage lies. By keeping the details of your business you want protected under wraps this way, you don't need to divulge any information to the public domain. Under trade secret protection, the only people who can access this sensitive information are your employees and contractors.

Signing confidentiality agreements is one way of protecting your business' trade secrets.Asking your employees and contractors to sign confidentiality agreements helps protect your trade secrets. 

2. It's up to you to protect that knowledge

Because your trade secrets don't need to be registered with IP Australia, it is your sole responsibility to ensure they are kept safe. If you are worried employees or contractors who work with your business may take advantage of these secrets, you can require them to sign confidentiality agreements before they undertake any work with you.

3. Anyone can invent the same product or design

If you choose to protect your business' intellectual property under trade secrets, you run the risk of someone else coming up with an idea near identical to your own. Whether it is inventing a product, innovating a service or designing a business process, it is possible that another entity can inadvertently (and perfectly legally) steal your idea.

4. They last for as long as they remain secret – but are difficult to maintain

When you protect something under a trade secret agreement, the protection lasts for as long as the information remains outside the public domain. Your information could stay protected for generations, as the recipes of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Coca Cola have been.

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However, protecting a secret for this long becomes complex when employees or contractors who worked with your business leave. As they no longer work with you, they have no legal obligation to protect your trade secrets. Many companies include lifetime confidentiality agreements in employment contracts. However, this is a difficult area of IP law to handle, so expert legal help is often required.

Protecting your trade secrets is easier when you have an experienced professional to guide you. The team at Alder IP are experts in IP law, and are waiting to hear from you today.