Area of Law: Intellectual Property
Answer Number: 335
Trade SecretsRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 335
A trade secret is confidential information which is often technical in nature. Common types of trade secrets are product formulas, such as the recipe for Coca-Cola, secret manufacturing techniques and customer lists. It is usually information that is used in a business and gives the business an advantage over competitors that do not have the information.
There is no need to file an application to register your trade secret. Although the courts will sometimes step in to prevent employees of the business or others from stealing trade secrets, there is no law that prevents competitors from analyzing your product, provided that they obtained your product legitimately. It is very important that you do not let the information become known to your competitors or to the public. Once the secret is out, the owner has no rights of exclusive ownership. That means anyone can use your trade secret once it is no longer a secret.
How the business can protect a trade secret
As the owner of a trade secret, you must take proper steps to protect your trade secrets. You can try to keep the information secret by limiting access to the area of your business in which the information is used and only disclosing the information to employees who need to know it. Employees must be advised that they are obligated to secrecy, and this obligation should be written into their employment contracts.
It is often extremely difficult to keep the trade secret from being discovered. You should consider applying for a patent or other type of intellectual property protection in circumstances where the information cannot be kept secret.
For more information about patents, refer to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
For legal assistance with your trade secret and applying for protection, or other intellectual property matters, contact our preferred lawyers and see who’s right for you:
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