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Trade secrets

Trade secrets or patents? How to develop your IP strategy

As a startup company, the ‘know-how’ and business information you have developed can be a vital asset to the success of your business, especially when that know-how relates to the particular product or process which is a cornerstone of your business. In protecting your IP, it is essential to determine which technical information should be included in a patent application and which might be better kept a trade secret.

Trade secrets can remain in force indefinitely, provided they can be kept secret, and therefore can be a very powerful tool in maintaining your competitive advantage in the market. Some of the most successful trade secrets, such as the Coca-Cola® recipe, have clearly stood the test of time. However, attempting to protect the wrong information as a trade secret, such as products or processes which may be reverse engineered, can leave the door open for competitors to enter your market space.

At Mathys & Squire, we have a large number of highly experienced patent attorneys operating within a wide range of technical fields who can advise you on what business information or know-how should be protected through a patent and which would be better kept as a trade secret.

What other benefits can trade secrets provide?

Licensing the particular information encompassed by the trade secret provisions can provide a useful source of additional revenue for your business and can improve the sustainability and growth of your company.

How is information classed as a trade secret?

In the UK, trade secrets are governed by The Trade Secrets Directive (2016/244/EU), which came into force in June 2018 for the purpose of harmonising the standards and protection of trade secrets across the EU.

In accordance with the directive, a trade secret includes any information which:

As well as guiding you through which technical information your early-stage business may benefit from keeping as a trade secret, our team can advise you on what would be considered ‘reasonable steps’ based on the size of your company, its infrastructure, and the particular product/process you are manufacturing/using. We can also advise you on what appropriate action you can take should a third party unlawfully acquire, use or disclose your trade secret.

Over 70 attorneys based in
the UK and Europe, and teams
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