Trade Secrets

Necessity of filing a patent


As a technology startup, your core technology may be the company’s largest asset and the cornerstone of the business. Owning patents or applying for patents demonstrates the company has cutting-edge technologies and is investing in developing and protecting its IP. A strong patent portfolio can boost a company’s value and help attract investors. Patents can also establish your own technology territory and prevent or deter others from entering the same business to compete with you. 

You can file a patent for a new or improved technology, which is novel (new), and not obvious. Except for a few excluded areas, you can apply for a patent for almost any technology area. A patent gives you the exclusive right to make, sell or use a product covered by your patent, or to use a method covered by your patent. A patent generally lasts for 20 years from when you first file the non-provisional application.

In exchange for these exclusive rights, you are required to disclose to the public what your invention is and how the invention works. So, if you intend to keep your invention from public eyes, you should consider keeping it as a trade secret (which would not be publicly available) instead of filing a patent. Keep in mind though that if someone else obtains the same technology either through independent research or by reverse engineering, your trade secret is lost and you will have no recourse. Also, trade secret protection requires affirmative steps to keep your technology secret. For example, employees, visitors and joint venturers should be required to sign confidentiality and/or nondisclosure agreements; documents containing trade secrets should be marked as proprietary and confidential; and access to trade secret information should be limited to only those employees who need to know the information. In contrast, a patent gives you protection even if someone else independently comes up with the same invention later or was not aware of your patent.