Trade secrets are information that companies keep secret to give them an advantage over their competitors. The formula for Coca-Cola, for instance, is the most famous trade secret. Trade secrets are different from other business secrets, such as the amount or other terms of a secret bid for a contract, the salary of certain employees, the security investments made or contemplated, or the date fixed for the announcement of a new policy or for bringing out a new model.
A trade secret is a process or device for continuous use in the operations of the business. Generally, trade secrets have to do with the production of goods, for example, a machine or formula for the production of an article. However, a trade secret might be the code for determining discounts, rebates, or other concessions in a price list or catalog, a list of specialized customers, or a method of bookkeeping or other office management.
Trade secrets are not protected by intellectual property law the same way that trademarks or patents are. Protection for trade secrets is done by non-disclosure, the information must be kept confidential. Most often, trade secrets are protected by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Many companies require their employees to sign an NDA as a condition of employment. Anything that is public knowledge or general knowledge in an industry cannot be claimed as a trade secret. Further, anything that is completely disclosed by the marketed goods cannot be a trade secret; for instance, if the ingredients are listed, a recipe would most likely not be a trade secret.
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