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Trade Secrets Overview

A trade secret has been defined as any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one's business, and which gives him or her an opportunity to obtains an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. A trade secret can be a chemical formula, a process of manufacturing, treating or preserving materials, lists of customers, marketing techniques, advertising strategies and sales methods. Trade secrets must be kept secret, and should only be disclosed in confidence.

Trade secrets can be an important asset of a business. Trade secrets may cover inventions, but for which a patent may not be filed because the owner did not want to divulge it to the world, because the owner thought the trade secret would last longer than a patent thereon, or because the idea itself may not be patentable.

There are several reasons for protecting a trade secret. One is to prevent them from being known to competitors. Another is to prevent employees that are leaving an employer from taking and using the trade secrets with a new employer. Of course, employees are entitled to make use of their own experience and knowledge.