In today’s business world, Intellectual Property (IP) plays an increasingly important role. Protecting innovative IP is becoming even more important in the global business community, with people the world over looking to take advantage of someone else’s work and turning it into a share of profits. We typically look to copyright, trademarking or patents to protect new ideas, inventions and independently created works. However, these standard means of protecting IP may not work best in every situation.
Patents are often used to protect original, novel products. The law protects people from using, copying or making the invention. Part of the process, however, requires registering the patent with the government. The patented information is available to others. This may present problems for creatives working in the information age, where others may take your patent and work on a product that “improves” upon the original work or creates a new non-obvious use for the product.
Patents may not be proper protection, or enough protection, for some works. So then, you may want to consider using trade secret protection for your invention or idea.
What is Trade Secret Protection?
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trade secret . . .
- is information that has either actual or potential independent economic value by virtue of not being generally known,
- has value to others who cannot legitimately obtain the information, and
- is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.
All three elements must be present for the trade secret to exist, and for there to exist liability for someone trying to steal a trade secret.
In Texas, the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act speaks to what constitutes a stealing (“misappropriation”) of a trade secret and the damages and injunctive relief available under the law.
How Trade Secret Protection Can Work Better Than Patents
A couple of items you may have heard of that are trade secrets are the formula for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Google’s search algorithm. Each is an example of how protecting ideas as trade secrets rather than patents are beneficial to a business.
No Disclosure Requirement
One can see how the Colonel might not want his famous recipe printed in public for amateur chefs to copy and make at home. It could severely hamper their profits. You don’t have to register the trade secret with the government, so you can keep the delicious recipe a secret.
In Google’s case, the secret they are protecting is an abstract idea rather than a product. So then, the search algorithm would not qualify for a patent, but it can be a trade secret.
Not only are abstract ideas considered trade secrets, but other things can be as well, as long as they meet the USPTO’s requirements. A method of doing things in your business can be protected as a trade secret, as can be a process, a design or general practice.
Trade secret protection can protect things that are integral to your business and which provide you with a competitive edge in your field. If others found out how you do things and that method is not generally known, it can be a trade secret. However, you have to keep it a secret.
How a Trade Secret Protection Lawyer Can Help
A lawyer with experience working in the IP practice area can help you answer some questions regarding protecting your IP as a trade secret. They can also protect your business and practices through a variety of actions.
A trade secret protection attorney can:
- Help you decide whether to use patents or protect practices as a trade secret and which methods are more advantageous to you. There are no formal procedures for filing a trade secret with the federal government.
- Help you create contracts with your employees that speak directly to trade secrets and how they may not be shared or discussed outside of your business
- Create policies and procedures for employee handbooks that speak directly to trade secrets, not only to make it forbidden to disclose secrets but to counsel employees on avoiding the unlawful use of legitimate trade secrets held by others
- Help you seek out ways of obtaining the use of valuable trade secrets through legal agreements like licensing agreements
- Take action against persons or entities you believe to be using your trade secrets without authorization, or take action against employees who may be trading your trade secrets with others
- Defend your business from charges that you unlawfully used a trade secret belonging to another entity. Using a trade secret from some other business is not always unlawful. You may stumble upon a trade secret through your own enterprise, may reverse engineer a product and discover a trade secret inadvertently, or another business may not have done enough to keep the trade secret a secret.
- Defend you from criminal charges regarding trade secrets under the Economic Espionage Act
- Help you understand the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act and incorporate such knowledge into policies and procedures.
Our Trade Secret Lawyer in Houston Protects Your Intellectual Property
The modern business world depends on innovative ideas to separate the also-rans from the world titans. You have innovative ideas in your business that need the protection of an IP lawyer who has extensive knowledge of the complex and emerging case law and scholarship in the field. Houston business attorney Andrew Weisblatt has extensive experience helping all types of businesses with a wide range of legal matters. If you have any kind of legal issue or dispute, call the Weisblatt Law Firm, LLC at (713) 666-1981 to discuss your situation today.