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Patents vs Trade Secret: Which is Right for Your Company?

Patents vs Trade Secret: Which is Right for Your Company?

Most businesses will need to take steps to protect their intellectual property. That said, deciding what type of protection is best can be tricky. The decision you make could have a huge impact on the future of your company and what you can do with the intellectual property you want to protect.

Two of the main ways a company can protect their property are trade secrets and patents. They can both be used to protect things like recipes and processes, but there is a big difference in the type of protection they offer and what they mean when it comes to ownership in the long run. Keep reading to find out more about the options. Then contact a business law attorney for a free case evaluation.

What is a patent?

Most people think of patents that cover inventions but they can actually cover a lot more than just physical objects. For example, a recipe for a dish, a formula to create a substance, or even a unique process to complete a specific task can be patented. Patents generally give you exclusive rights to make money form and control the patented property for as long as 20 years. This gives you two decades to choose who can use your property and gives you total control in that time to decide how much they will have to pay.

There is one big drawback that many businesses are weary of: To be granted a patent, you must disclose your invention to the patent office. Anyone who wants to can read it and study it, though they are not allowed to use it without your permission. When the patent expires, you lose all claims to use it exclusively.

Companies may choose a patent if they expect that what they are patenting will become outdated within 20 years. For example, a cell phone manufacturer likely does not have to worry that the technology they patent today will still be a hot commodity in 20 years.

What is a trade secret?

A trade secret is entirely different. There is no registry office and there is no control over your trade secrets. The entire value of them is that they are secret and only you and whomever you choose to clue in knows the secret. If the information were to become public, then the value will likely be gone overnight – as well as any profits you may have seen.

The main reason to choose keeping information a trade secret instead of patenting it is to ensure that it stays a secret. Take Coca Cola for example. They do not have a patent on their product because they keep the formula very well hidden. Since they have been selling their product for more than 100 years, it is likely that if they had patented their formula, as soon as the 20 year patent expired, it would have been duplicated – and there would go their profits.

If you are not sure what your best options are for protecting your intellectual property then your best bet is to contact Law Offices of Torrence L. Howell at (909) 920-0908 for a free case evaluation.


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