In today’s blog post we are taking a closer look at a rather overlooked means of IP protection, namely trade secrets. Even though, trade secrets are a type of IP that does not require formal registration, there are still some aspects to pay attention to when using trade secrets to protect your inventions in China. We’ve chosen a case study involving a Dutch SME to highlight some of these aspects.
Trade Secrets in China
Nearly all businesses in all industries and sectors possess trade secrets. Trade secrets are a valuable and highly useful form of intellectual property that are nevertheless often undervalued and overlooked by their owners. This is not least the case in the service sector where the relative value of trade secrets as intangible assets can be extremely high. For example, a logistics firm may not hold any patents or few trade marks and substantial copyrights, but the value of its operations could heavily derive from information contained within client lists and standard procedures.
A considerable advantage for trade secrets is that unlike some other forms of IP rights, such as patents and copyrights that have a finite term, trade secrets can theoretically enjoy an infinite term of protection so long as the trade secret remains just that – a secret. The main difference between protecting something by patent or as a trade secret is that, while technical information is publicly disclosed in patents, it is kept away from the public eye in trade secrets. A trade secret can last forever as long as the confidentiality measures that protect it continue to work. An invention patent typically expires after 20 years.
On the other hand, legal protection of trade secrets is easily lost. Once the information becomes public information, it no longer enjoys any legal protection. As a result, prevention is the golden rule when it comes to protecting your trade secrets, because once your secret is out, there is usually very little that you can do about it. China, like most other countries, provides a legal framework for the protection for trade secrets, and the law provides for remedies in the event that your trade secrets are unlawfully disclosed. Continue reading “Handling Trade Secrets in China: IP Case Study” »