When a company has a product, method or process of production that is new, inventive, has economic or industrial value and has not been published or disclosed, the company could seek protection through a patent or trade secret.
Patents of invention, once allowed, grant an exclusive exploitation right to the owner, a highly valuable commercial advantage. However, inventions have to be fully disclosed to the public and the protection expires within a defined period, usually 20 years after it is requested.
Conversely, trade secrets are not linked to any time limit; therefore, if the structure is not violated and the product or process cannot be easily replicated by the competition, you could expect permanent protection.
In Costa Rica, for the information to be considered a trade secret, it must:
- Be secret/confidential
- Be subject to reasonable and proportional steps to keep it secret
- Be comercially valuable because it is secret
Although a trade secret does not have to be registered, not all companies meet the requirements to access the full extend of legal protection. Thus, the crucial point for emerging companies who seek to guarantee protection of their trade secrets is to implement a robust protocol, considering physical, electronic and even contractual measures.