This article focuses on advantages to protect intellectual property by keeping it under wraps. There are some things that just cannot keep from getting out. Probably nothing in the law breeds as many myths as trade secrets. One positive aspect of trade secrets is that they can protect things patents cannot, since the general definition of a trade secret is any information that is in some way valuable, provided that reasonable efforts are used to maintain the secret. Trade secret protection can also last indefinitely. Patents, by contrast, expire 20 years after they are filed. The problem with trade secrets begins when engineering managers rely on trade secrets without understanding their limits or use trade secrets as a fall-back business decision. Conducting regular trade secret audits is a mechanism where a trade secret specialist gains an understanding of a company’s secrets, ensures that they are sufficiently defined, and that they are adequately protected. After the product is released, its high-level functionality is no longer a trade secret, but could be protected via a patent. Marketing literature and data sheets are also no longer trade secrets because they are usually made public.

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