Today we continue our discussion on external methods of technology transfer. A trade secret is any commercial formula, device, pattern, process, or information that affords an enterprise an advantage over others who do not know it. The information is not generally known and has value. Trade secrets must be maintained by avoiding public disclosure.
In contrast, know-how is a broader term that describes factual knowledge not usually amenable to a precise description. Know-how is usually accumulated knowledge as result of trial and error. Know-how typically gives an enterprise the ability to produce something that could not be produced as accurately or successfully without it. Know-how may include trade secrets and cannot be protected or licensed unless it is first recorded in a tangible medium.
Unlike patents, in the U S State, rather than federal, laws protect trade secrets. These laws allow the trade secret owner to prosecute someone for unauthorized use, observation, or lack of adequate security measures, the information moves into the public domain and loses protection under trade secret law. Trade secrets are effective to protect product innovations that incorporate various technological barriers to analysis, and process innovations that can be hidden from exposure.
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