It is no surprise that applying for and obtaining a patent is an expensive endeavor. It is no surprise that enforcing a patent through litigation or a licensing program is generally an even more expensive endeavor. Traditionally during tough economic times, patent enforcement efforts pick up, as companies look to their IP portfolios as revenue producing assets, apart from normal product or service profits. But is that happening today?
Despite historical trends, there are fewer newly patent litigation lawsuits than a year ago. Further, companies are reportedly deciding to file fewer patent applications and allow more issued patents to go abandoned. (See IP Watchdog) If you elect to forego patent protection, what can you do to protect your technology?
Trade secret protection may be an alternative to patent protection. But, while trade secret protection may be less costly than patenting, it can be risky. The benefits of trade secret include that it arguably may last indefinitely because it does not carry a government set term, which limits patent protection. However, with trade secret protection, the secret information must stay secret. Once the cat is out of the bag, it is lost forever. Accordingly, a company electing to maintain its technology crown jewels as trade secrets needs to develop and practice corporate policies that work to keep the information highly confidential. Programs constituting reasonable precautionary measures will generally include strict NDA use, secured facilities and computer systems and restricted internal dissemination of confidential information. Effective protection programs include publishing policies to employees, such as in employee handbooks, to clearly set out conduct requirements aimed to keep trade secrets secret.
For advice on developing or strengthening corporate policies to promote trade secret protection, or advice concerning a decision to protect technology with patent or trade secret protection, you may contact Traverse Legal, PLC.
If you have a patent issue, or wish to register a patent, you may contact one of our patent attorneys for a free evaluation or call 866.936.7447 (International Toll Free).