Notes from 3/9/2011

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In addition to patents, there are three other forms of IP in the US:

  • Copyright - Federal
  • Trademarks - Federal
  • Trade secrets - State

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets: state law
(1910) The term "trade secret" as it is usually understood means a secret formula or process not patented, known only to certain individuals who use it in... manufacturing some article of trade having commercial value. It is rarely, if ever, used to denote the mere privacy with which an ordinary commercial business is carried out.

What's the benefit of a trade secret?
Property right: protection against unauthorized disclosure, and if it is disclosed, can receive monetary compensation.

Falls under law of torts
One is liable when he or she uses or discloses a trade secret if:

  • it was discovered by improper means;
  • the disclosure or use is a breach of confidence;
  • a third party disclosed the information to the person and the third party was breaching his dutyl
  • he had notice it was a secret and the disclosure was a mistake.

Contrast with patents

  1. Trade secrets do not protect against:
    • reverse engineering;
    • independent development.
  2. However, not subject to ideas like
    • nonobviousness;
    • prior use;
    • trade secrets need be only marginally removed from common knowledge.
  3. No need to file for protection.
    • if a company makes an effort to keep it a secret, they don't have to file for anything.


Title 17 USC
Covers "original works of authorship"

  • fixed in a tangible medium.

Copyright material:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works (including lyrics)
  3. dramatic works (including scores)
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. artwork
  6. motion pictures and other AV works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works.