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Should companies protect inventions as trade secrets or patents?

As noted by the World Intellectual Property Organization, there is no simple answer to the question of whether inventors should protect their processes as trade secrets or with patents. Las Vegas entrepreneurs who are confronted with this issue should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages for both before establishing their corporate intellectual property strategies.

The Harvard Business Review notes that the level of confidentiality a company can expect from partners and employees is an important factor in deciding whether to pursue a trade secret. This is because this type of intellectual property can last indefinitely as long as it remains in-house, but the protection terminates once a trade secret is revealed. Executives who are confident their employees will not steal or inadvertently release confidential information may find it beneficial to protect their inventions as trade secrets.

Companies that believe an intellectual property dispute may arise regarding one of their inventions may prefer to secure patents for their products. This is because patents provide substantial legal protections against infringement. Damages for patent infringement, for example, can be hefty; depending on the situation, a court can order infringers to pay up to triple the amount of damages found or assessed. Businesses that need this level of legal protection may want to opt for patenting their inventions.

It is also important for business owners to understand that trade secrets and patents can coexist within a company. For some businesses, it may make sense to diversify their intellectual property holdings by using trade secrets in some situations and patents in others.

This information is provided for general purposes only. It should not be relied upon as legal advice.

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