IP strategy – Trade Secrets vs. Patent Protection

Trade secrets and patent protection are two important ways you can protect your assets. In the world of intellectual property, trade secrets and patents play an essential role in the future of your business. Both of them differ in terms of security, their purpose, and functions. Before we get into the difference between the trade secrets and patent protection, let’s understand the difference between the two regarding intellectual property.

What is a trade secret?

Almost every company has a secret through which they carry out their business to achieve success. The secret could be a process, information, product, or anything that CANNOT be disclosed to the public; and sometimes, even employees may not be privy to that information.

What is a patent?

A patent is the right given by the government to the creator of an invention. With these rights, the inventor or creator can exclude people from using the invention for a specific period.

Secrets vs. Patents

 The main difference that separates the trade secret and patent is:

Trade secrets are one kind of strategy to follow to protect the business when it is entirely dependent upon preserving the confidentiality of the information, process, or product for the profitability of the company. While patents are the kind of protection where the inventor would like to sell or distribute his or her invention to the public or third party.

To understand better, here’s an example of trade secrets and patents:

Google doesn’t publish how it’s search algorithm works. Even if there is an update, it’s going to put out that update in an imprecise language. That is a trade secret.

For businesses like Apple, they need to patent their services and technology to avert people and competitors from using their technology and products.


As we clearly stated above trade secrets are not meant for disclosure. That also means you have the least paperwork involved. You don’t necessarily need to maintain a document or get it registered.

On the other hand, patents involve a registration process that consumes time, requires money and has much documentation as well. It’s a tricky task for the creators to overcome while filing the patent for their invention.

As much as trade secrets are effortless, it makes it even more intricate in making it legally binding. When there’s a misuse of the trade secrets, the company or business needs to prove that it was absolutely obtained in an inappropriate manner which often makes it a complicated legal case.  But, if the opposite party attained the information in an appropriate way, then they are allowed to use it.


When it comes to the trade secrets, there’s no time duration. As long as it is able to fulfill the requirements of the business, then you can keep the trade secret for an infinite period. However, if you do not need it anymore, you can disclose it at any time.

When you register a patent, the average duration given to the inventors is twenty years from the day it was filed. Once that period is over, a competitor can legally create and sell or distribute the product to whomsoever they want to.


Since trade secrets do not need any filing or paperwork involved, there is minimal cost. However, it is only applicable to the information, process, or product that asks for confidentiality.

meet Lawyer

For patents, it is highly recommended that you contact an intellectual property lawyer who can guide you through the often-daunting patent application process. Once you have hired the attorney, the cost varies from one to the other depending on the protection strength of the patent you are applying for.

Which IP strategy to select?

Deciding which IP strategy is better is entirely dependent on your process and business. Ideally, we recommend utilizing the services of an intellectual property lawyer who has the expertise to guide you in making the best decision.

Having a passion for writing and law, Victor. S. Thomas is a law student who is also a legal writer. He helps people to achieve their goals by creating brief and legal documents. When people come to him for intellectual property needs, his suggestion is always Brickell IP who offers cost-effective and experienced services. Besides writing, Victor enjoys gardening during weekends.

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Heather Neves

Heather Neves is working as a freelance content writer. She likes blogging on topics related to technology, business strategies; home improvement. She graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Accountancy and Creative Writing.

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