What is a Trade Secret?

To remain competitive in the marketplace, businesses often need to provide something special to consumers and clients. This might include faster service, a better product or unique solutions.

In any of these cases, the information or method that gives your company its edge may be classified as a trade secret.

Examples of trade secrets
For instance, your company might create consumer profiles or develop advertising and marketing strategies that are unique to your business and not available to the public. You might also have customer lists, bid specifications or business plans that are valuable because they are a compilation of information not otherwise readily available to your competitors.

Challenges with protecting trade secrets
These resources can give you an advantage over your competitors, and because of this, it is important that you protect them from misappropriation.

But this can be difficult to do without the requisite knowledge or experience. As an example, business owners can be confused about whether to patent a specific invention or protect it as a trade secret. Or they might assume something is protected as a trade secret but fail to take the necessary steps to confirm this. It is also possible that a company protects a trade secret but is unsure of how to enforce it properly.

These types of issues are not uncommon. As the World Intellectual Property Organization notes, trade secrets and protection measures aren't necessarily as concrete and well defined as a patent, for example. There is no formal registration process; there is no timeline for protection; they are often defined using broad terms.

What business owners can do

Recognizing the importance of protecting these unique assets, business owners, and administrators should seek the advice of an intellectual property attorney who can help you identify, protect and enforce your company's trade secrets. 

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