IP in software: What is the best way to protect software (part 2)?

Another alternative to patents is trade secrets.

Trade secrets are the secrets you use in the course of your business, secrets that maintain their commercial value if and only if they are kept secret.

The best known examples of trade secrets are the recipe for Coca Cola, KFC’s famous blend of herbs and spices and the formula for WD40. But these are all firmly rooted in the world of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), so what do they have to do with software inventions?

Software is actually a very good example of a type of invention that might be suitable for protection by a trade secret. Consider a scenario where your software is run on a secure server not accessible by the public, your customers can send data to your server and then receive an output in return, and importantly, the output provided is particularly better than the output that is provided by known systems.

In this scenario a trade secret might be a more appropriate form of IP protection for your software than a patent.

However, it’s important to remember there are limits to the protection afforded by trade secrets. If someone comes up with the same idea independently, or reverse engineers your product (always a risk in the software world), then you cannot prevent them from using that idea.

In contrast, a patent requires you to disclose your invention to the public but gives you up to 20 years of monopoly right to stop others using that invention.

Because of this, even if someone comes up with the invention on their own, then you can prevent them from taking your market edge. In addition to protecting your ideas, patents can make asset evaluation easier for your business, if and when that becomes important for you.

It is therefore important to consider which type of IP right is going to be most effective for your business. If you’d like one of our specialist electronics and communications attorneys help you reach this decision, please contact us today.