While some inventions have the option to be protected by either patents or trade secrets, in some cases trade secrets are the only viable option. This is because there is certain criteria that must be met to obtain a patent and they can be more challenging to acquire. However, if your invention has the ability to be granted a patent or become a trade secret, it is important to learn about the differences between the two so you can decide which one is right for you.
The Pros of Trade Secrets
Unlike patents, trade secrets do not come with an expiration date. This can be a big advantage because as long as your trade secret does not become public knowledge, it can remain in place indefinitely. They are also free to obtain which is useful for inventors or companies with smaller budgets. If you are especially concerned about anyone having knowledge of your invention, a trade secret may also be the way to go since you do not have to disclose information to the government like you would with a patent.
The Disadvantages of Trade Secrets
Although trade secrets are technically free, it can be expensive to keep the information private. For example, if a large corporation protects a recipe through a trade secret, they may have to spend copious amounts of money in order to safeguard it. One of the biggest dangers of using a trade secret to protect an invention is the possibility of someone reverse engineering your product. If this were to happen, you would have no legal rights if they chose to commercialize it.
When Should You Go With a Patent?
If your product is especially innovative, it is a good idea to apply for a patent. If you do not, you risk someone else patenting your invention later down the road. Also if your product can be reverse engineered, the odds are high that it will be. When looking for investors, remember that they typically prefer patents instead of trade secrets.