Trade secret law is the oldest form of IP protection. Trade secrets are most often in the form of inventions, know-how, and show-how information that gives you a competitive advantage. Examples of types of trade secrets include formulas, recipes, software, business processes, databases, customer lists and proprietary information. Anything that takes time, money, or effort to develop and that you don’t want your competitors to know.

Unlike other forms of intellectual property such as patents, copyrights and trademarks, trade secrecy is basically a do-it-yourself form of protection. You don’t register with the government to secure your trade secret; you simply keep the information confidential. Trade secret protection lasts for as long as the secret is kept confidential. Once a trade secret is made available to the public, trade secret protection ends.

Here is a list of some of the most well known (and valuable) trade secrets:

  • Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies (what makes them so yummy?)
  • The New York Times Best-Seller list (how do you get on this list?)
  • Listerine Mouth Wash (it’s been around for almost 100 years)
  • WD-40 (this stuff works on everything)
  • Twinkies (we still don’t know how they are made)
  • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (hot off the line and into your hands)
  • McDonalds Special Sauce (it’s on the Big Mac)
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken (supposedly it has over 30 different seasonings)
  • Coca Cola (enjoyed by millions around the world)
  • Google (its proprietary search algorithm let’s you find anything)

Trade secrets, unlike patents, can be licensed forever. Even if a trade secret subsequently enters the public domain, royalty payments under trade secret licensing agreements can continue indefinitely.

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Mr. Brenner has over 30 years IP management and licensing experience with various industries including consumer products, food, entertainment, software,health technology, medical devices and digital media. He has led international licensing programs as both licensee and licensor, and through consulting projects focused on strategy and management, outbound / inbound licensing initiatives, and IP audits and due diligence.. He has developed and managed deals with Fortune 1000 companies including Universal Studios, Fox Interactive, Sony Pictures, Dow, Cargill, SmithKline Glaxo, Ranir, Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, Hasbro, Mattel, and others. He is a public speaker and published writer, and has taught classes at the university level. His speaking events have included UC Irvine, Tritech/SBDC, Irvine Chamber, Fast Start Studios, ICFO Investors Conference, San Diego Investment Conference, Westlaw Legal Center (NYC), National Speakers Association, and the Hong Kong FilmArt Expo. He has written several articles on licensing intellectual property which have appeared in the Licensing Journal, Intellectual Property Magazine, and License India.

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