Trade Secrets, as the name suggests, are kept hidden from the world in order to provide an exclusive benefit to their owner [Restatement 3d of Unfair Competition §42 comment f (1995)]. Trade Secret Law has largely been defined by state statutes and common law and is distinguishable, but not immiscible, from patent law and other forms of Intellectual Property protection. The key difference between a trade secret and a patent is the length of protection. For example, patents are typically only protected for about twenty years, and are also published so others are able to use and benefit from the innovation. Trade secrets remain protected under state and federal law as long as their possessor meets certain guidelines. This research guide has been assembled with a focus on Florida Trade Secret Law, however I have provided access to resources that will assist in other states as well.
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Barbara Luther of the Luther Law Firm, PLC gives a quick and easy explanation on what types of information should be patented and situations where you can use both patents and trade secrets to protect your information.(Source: Youtube)
Benjamin I. Fink of Berman, Fink, Van Horn P.C. gives a brief explanation of what a trade secret can be: (Source: YouTube)
In the United States, trade secrets are governed primarily by state law. This is in contrast to patents and trademarks which are exclusively governed by federal statutes and the USPTO. It is important to keep this distinction in mind as you continue to research the topic of trade secrets.
The Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition §39( 1995), comment c discusses the relationship between patent and copyright law to trade secret law. Federal patent law protects inventions that are (1) novel and (2) kept secret prior to seeking patent protection. Patent holders also enjoy the ability "to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention, 35 U.S.C.A. § 271, enforceable even against persons relying on independent discovery or reverse engineering."
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