Trade Secret Programme – development of the most important IP right
Trade secrets are a little understood intellectual property right, however they can be very powerful for most businesses. Trade secret law has been revamped significantly over the last six years by all major governments and this illustrates the importance vested in this valuable intellectual property right.
Every business has know-how and confidential information but very few have properly protected this as trade secrets. Know-how is much better protected through a trade secrets programme because the law allows for it to be better defended in this structure. It is not a complicated process, and it does not involve registration costs with the PTOs; but it does require some legwork from the
company and some external support.
Trade secrets can help a business:
• To build and maintain competitive advantage
• Increase security for customers, investors, employees, and partners
• Improve innovation structure protecting valuable new ideas and concepts
• Enhance protection and increase collaboration with suppliers, partners etc.
The issue with secrets of course is that they spill and leak very easily, but most businesses find that having executed a trade secrets programme they are in a much better position to judge what can and cannot be shared in collaborations and partnerships. As a result, trade secrets are much more likely to be retained as secrets and within the business. However if they have been shared under strict guidelines then there is legal recourse should there be any subsequent breach, and this is key.
A Trade Secret Must Include Four Concepts
Specifically, for a practice or process or knowledge of a company to be considered a trade secret it must include four concepts:
a) it must be business-related technical or commercial information,
b) it must not be known to the public, (i.e., it is secret),
c) its secrecy must provide an actual or potential economic advantage for the company,
d) there must be a reasonable effort to protect it against disclosure (i.e., the company exercises reasonable measures to maintain it as a secret).
Neil Court Johnson
John has played an invaluable role in assisting us to develop and implement a trade secrets programme, to identify and roll out IP best practice in process and systems - and has provided us with critical support regarding IP in real life business negotiations. I would strongly recommend John as a business partner.
I have worked with John for many years within the IP industry. He has an impressive ability to identify opportunities and turn these into commercial business deliverables.
I was very confused about what unregistered trademark and registered trademarks were, IP protection and simply how to protect my business and IP assets.
“It is always a delight working with John. He has been an invaluable resource to our business as we build our intellectual property asset base. We have successfully received registration for trademarks and patents while following an IP strategy developed by John.
“I was fortunate enough to work with John relatively early-on in my career and look back on that time extremely fondly. John is an exceptional and instinctive mentor and coach who always brings a wealth of business and IP experience to any situation with understanding and compassion.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with John. We built two new products together, worked on challenging market and customer opportunities and had a great deal of fun along the way.
I have known John for many years and I value his logic, his structured thinking and his ability to make complex simple especially, not not only, in IP. Would recommend him highly as a strategic and thinking partner.
Exalt IP coached us on how to achieve amazing value for our IP assets when we sold the business and the IP separately
“Exalt IP helped us develop an IP Strategy Business Plan, identify and protect the value in our IP and to enhance the value of our business” CEO MyDrive
Sample Trade Secrets Programme
1. Education and training of employees on the importance of IP and trade secrets
2. Trade secret policy defined and approved.
3. Governance structure in place
4. Management process for trade secrets
a. How to capture and protect (administrative, legal & technical) trade secrets.
b. How to manage trade secrets in the business.
c. How to handle other’s trade secrets.
d. How to share the companies trade secrets with others.
5. Identification and management of trade secrets (logging and tracking using metadata)