The business of trade secrets

March 29, 2016 - Tags: Intellectual property

This guest blog post is provided by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) which is responsible for the administration and processing of the greater part of intellectual property in Canada.

What is a trade secret?

Broadly speaking, a trade secret is virtually anything that is confidential and that is of value to the business as a consequence of that secrecy.

Common types of trade secrets in business

  • Customer and marketing research
  • Chemical formulas and special recipes (think Coca-Cola®)
  • Unpatented inventions (often used when the invention has a short lifespan or when the invention is difficult to reverse engineer)
  • Keeping an invention or design confidential (not disclosed to the public) before applying for a patent or industrial design
  • Training manuals, business plans, and other essential business information

Although there is no legislation that specifically protects trade secrets in Canada, information may be protected as a trade secret if it is not publicly available or generally known within the industry, and if reasonable steps are taken to keep it secret.

Ways to protect trade secrets

  • Non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements: When disclosing your business information to anyone, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement.
  • Confidentiality clauses: Include confidentiality clauses in employment agreements.
  • Encryption: Encrypt any valuable business information.
  • Password protection: Use passwords to access valuable business information.
  • Lock and key: Lock up any valuable business information in a safe.

How long does protection last?

Protection lasts for as long as you are successful in maintaining the secrecy of the information.

Remember, once your secret is out, it loses its business value. It's in your best interest to use as many methods as possible to ensure your trade secrets stay secret!

Need more info?

Explore Canada.ca/intellectualproperty to find more information on the various types of intellectual property protection available to you, such as patents, trademarks, copyright and industrial design.

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