What Information Is At Risk Without An Intellectual Property Agreement?
Your intellectual property is not safeguarded by law as soon as it’s been created, which means it is your responsibility to protect it. You can choose to maintain a trade secret for the foreseeable future, or pursue formal protection. Keep reading to learn more about how to keep your intellectual property safe.
Maintaining a Trade Secret
Information and data that are considered trade secrets can, by definition, vary between jurisdictions. However, a simple way to define what constitutes a trade secret is any resource that business owners strive to keep under wraps to give their business an edge over the competition—designs, data compilations, devices, formulas, processes, and so on.
Statutes—such as confidentiality agreements—can be used to protect trade secrets in certain instances (which this post explains later). According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “trade secrets are protected without any type of registration, meaning without any formal procedures. Therefore, a trade secret can be protected for an unrestricted period of time.”
General standards for trade secrets, as outlined by the Government of Canada, are as follows:
- The information must be secret (i.e. it is not generally known or easily accessible by those who normally deal with the type of information in question)
- It must hold commercial worth or value because it’s a secret
- It should have been subjected to reasonable steps from the true holder of the information to keep it a secret (i.e. through confidentiality agreements)
Protecting Trade Secrets with Confidentiality Agreements
A business owner can choose to issue a confidentiality agreement, which is a contract that restricts others from sharing trade secrets—these documents can also be called non-disclosure agreements.
It is common for those who create something innovative to expect people who come in contact with trade secret information to sign a confidentiality agreement. Having this in place reduces the risk of the information becoming public, where it is possible for it to no longer be protected by law.
Limitations of Trade Secrets
Maintaining secrecy for a long period of time can be difficult, and even more so when numerous people are aware of the secret. The more people who know about it, and the longer someone tries to keep a trade secret, the harder it is for the legal system to protect it from improper use.
It is a complicated process under common or civil law to prove someone has broken the terms of a confidentiality agreement. Applying for a patent or industrial design legislation, for example, can be far less costly than taking legal action down the line. If someone else takes credit for an innovation, it can be an expensive, lengthy process to gain back intellectual property in court.
Are you looking for sound legal advice for your organization, business or corporation? Contact KGPC LLP today.