Trade Secrets Vs. Patent Protection

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An alternative to patent protection is trade secrecy protection. Trade secrets can include software, databases, or any type of valuable information that is not generally known but which gives the owner a business advantage. The owner of a trade secret must take reasonable steps to keep the information confidential, such as locking away important documents, or passwords protecting computer files. The law prevents competitors from obtaining trade secrets through theft, bribery, espionage, or hiring away a business' employees. Competitors are permitted to discover independently a trade secret through their own efforts, or to reverse engineer a trade secret by examining a product in order to learn how it works. Employees of technology firms are frequently required to sign confidentiality agreements promising to keep their employers' valuable information secret.