Secret know how
For business critical formulas and method of preparation
Sometimes secret know-how, a commercial or production secret is worth more than a patent. Think of methods of preparation for perfumes (Chanel), beverage (Coca-Cola) or a process (a smart purchasing or sales process). You can check if the invention is new to the European Patent Office (EPO) by visiting www.epo.org. Often it is recommended to engage a patent attorney with a particular specialisation. When is it better to keep an invention in the form of secret know-how and, therefore, considering not to apply for patent rights?
How do you balance secret know-how against a patent right? The disadvantages of a patent right are partly the advantages of secret know-how. Examples includes temporary validity, the cost of an application, the fight against counterfeiting, disclosure of a patent and management of confidentiality. With secret knowledge you do not acquire an exclusive right but you create one. But even if there is a patent, infringements do occur sometimes.
The choice in favour of secret know-how requires considerations of an operational, technical, commercial and financial nature…as well as guts. This is partly a legal matter we advise on but partly a practical matter as well.
Is it possible to apply for a patent for the new process or the new product during the phase of secret know-how, at a later stage? How do you deal with parties such as former employees acting in bad faith or your competitors? Will you still be entitled to continue to exploit your secret knowledge? And can you sell your business and your secret know-how separately?
We look forward to providing you with advice.