Trade secrets: You may have more than you think

You can build intellectual property value by documenting your company’s proprietary information

All businesses, large and small, are well-advised to critically assess their intellectual property on an ongoing basis. Patent, trademark or copyright law may not adequately protect valuable business information like strategic plans, customer lists, compiled information, useful techniques and unsuccessful ventures. Yet companies can protect information that contributes to an economic advantage as a trade secret — a recognized form of IP — by actively preventing its disclosure outside the company.

The key algorithm, the special sauce, the original recipe — certainly these obvious sources of trade secrets should be included in the overall IP strategy. But other information should not be ignored. Almost any information can be kept as a trade secret, except general knowledge in the field, general ideas and concepts, and information about how a something in the public works. With such a broad definition, it’s safe to presume that almost all companies in operation are in possession of some information that could be protectable as a trade secret given this broad definition.

Contributing Author

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Matthew McFarlane

Matthew McFarlane is a trial attorney at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. who represents clients in a variety of intellectual property matters....

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