Trade Secret Basics FAQ
What is a trade secret?
1. What is a trade secret?
In most states, a trade secret may consist of any formula, pattern, physical device, idea, process or compilation of information that both:
- provides the owner of the information with a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and
- is treated in a way that can reasonably be expected to prevent the public or competitors from learning about it, absent improper acquisition or theft.
Some examples of potential trade secrets are:
- a formula for a sports drink
- survey methods used by professional pollsters
- a new invention for which a patent application has not yet been filed
- marketing strategies
- manufacturing techniques, and
- computer algorithms.
Unlike other forms of intellectual property such as patents, copyrights and trademarks, trade secrecy is basically a do-it-yourself form of protection. You don't register with the government to secure your trade secret; you simply keep the information confidential. Trade secret protection lasts for as long as the secret is kept confidential. Once a trade secret is made available to the public, trade secret protection ends.