Securing Your Startup’s Intellectual Property Rights: Patent vs. Trade Secret

Entrepreneurs and emerging companies often look for ways to protect their valuable assets. They want to secure their ideas and ultimately enforce their rights around them. Traditionally, there are four types of intellectual property rights: patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets.

Patents and trade secrets are the two types of intellectual property rights that protect information. Patents protect information by filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and in return, the owner has a license to sue anyone who attempts to manufacture or sell the information. On the other hand, trade secrets protect the information and the competitive advantage it creates by ensuring the information remains a secret.

From a duration standpoint, a patent provides protection for 20 years, whereas a trade secret can last forever. While information could potentially be protected by either a patent or a trade secret, the moment the information owner chooses to file a patent application and make it public, the trade secret has been lost since the secrecy is gone.

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