Would trade secrets or patents provide the better protection?

Glenn W. Peterson

Often, a California company’s intellectual property gives it the market edge needed in order to become a success. Protecting that property becomes a crucial task in order for a business to continue to thrive. The question is whether trade secrets or patents provide the better protection. In some cases, the combination of both could be the right way to go.

Each option comes with pros and cons. For instance, patents expire after a certain number of years and make inventions part of the public record. In addition, it may be easier to pursue restitution from those who misuse or misappropriate those patented materials, and patent owners could enter into agreements to allow others to use this intellectual property in exchange for the payment of royalties.

On the other hand, trade secrets remain confidential. The data and/or inventions in question derive their commercial value from remaining secret. With the proper protections in place, no one else could discover the process or products that make a particular business a success. It is vital that the information remain secret in order to continue to receive protections afforded by the Defend Trade Secrets Act and any other applicable laws, and maintaining confidentiality often requires constant attention.

Regardless of whether a company relies on trade secrets or patents, there are legal processes and requirements that must be met in order to receive the protections provided by each. When making the determination of which method or combination of methods to use, it would be invaluable to gain an understanding of what the law requires of each. Consulting with a California intellectual property attorney could provide an explanation of the rights and responsibilities of each, an assessment of what would work best, and assistance in instituting a protection plan.