A trade secret can be a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, commercial method, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable by others, and by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers.
Broadly, any confidential business information which provides a business with a competitive edge may be considered as a trade secret.
Historically, trade secrets’ significance has been under-appreciated, but that situation is fast changing. There are various forces at play increasing the importance of this form of IP.
- Law changes (DTSA in USA; EU Directive on Trade Secret in Europe; Anti Unfair Competition Law in China; the Unfair Competition Prevention Act in Japan)
- Increased trade secret litigation particularly involving US companies but not exclusively so
- Growing interest in trade secrets by the tax authorities (OECD BEPS, Patent Box Tax Regimes)
- Cyber criminals trying to steal trade secrets
- Companies embracing Open Innovation and sharing trade secrets
- The changing nature of employment
- Trade wars being blamed by some on trade secret theft
- IP reform weakening patents
- Fundamental changes in technology (agile development, cloud-based solutions, the growth of software, the importance of data)
Trade secret metadata:
Trade secrets are an unregistered form of IP. There are no records maintained by the Patent & Trademark Office.
Some mistakenly believe that because trade secrets are not registered, then the concept of trade secret metadata may not apply. Others mistakenly believe that because trade secrets are meant to be kept secret, then no metadata should exist.
Metadata is a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. Metadata is simply data that describes other data. Meta is a prefix that in most information technology usages means ‘an underlying definition or description’.
Trade secret metadata summarizes basic information about the trade secret, which can make finding and working with this unique form of IP much easier.
Simply deciding to keep something secret is not sufficient. Trade secret asset management is about the policies and procedure, processes and systems, education and governance defined and taken into use to help manage such assets.
Having good quality trade secret metadata is crucial. Such metadata serves to provide context and/or additional information about these assets.
“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.”
About the presenter:
Donal O’Connell is the Managing Director of Chawton Innovation Services. The company was established in 2009 and provides IP education, IP consultancy and IP software solutions to clients across a diverse range of industry sectors.
Chawton Innovation Services has been actively involved in the area of trade secret asset management for several years, and has operating companies, Legal & IP Firms and even some Finance and Tax Firms as clients.
The company is also heavily involved in a project with a major IP Insurance Provider working to bring an innovative trade secret insurance product to market.
Chawton Innovation Services designed and developed a trade secret asset management solution and brought it to market back in 2016, just prior to the US passing their new US Federal Trade Secret law – The Defend Trade Secrets Act.
Donal has over 50 papers on various aspects of trade secrets and trade secret asset management published, included some by leading Legal, IP and Financial publications.
He speaks regularly at IP Conferences and Seminars about trade secret asset management and was involved in recent trade secret workshops in Eindhoven (IPEG workshop); Paris (Marques Conference) and Gothenburg (CIP Forum).
Previously Donal was VP of R&D and Director of IP at Nokia. As well as his role at Chawton Innovation Services, he teaches IP at Imperial College Business School in London and he has been on the IAM300 (top global IP strategists) list for the past few years.