IP: Trade Secret

One other tool in the legal system can be used to protect IP—the trade secret. This is an option for some companies that want the com­petitive advantage only until their product is released, or for those products that cannot be reverse-engineered (harder and harder to protect with today’s technologies). A trade secret is protected, obvi­ously, by keeping it a secret, a more and more difficult task in today’s environment, where employees frequently are hired away by com­petitors. Coca-Cola’s recipe and Kodak’s emulsifiers are examples of trade secrets; no one outside the company knows those formulas. Technologies in fast-paced markets or fashion trends are often kept secret until release, because by the time competitors catch up, the technology or style will be outdated. The composition of the Swiffer cloths might have been a candidate for trade secret. However, the technologies available today for reverse engineering mean a high like­lihood that a competitor would create an equivalent cloth quickly. As it stands, although each cloth is actually different in performance, without a pointed advertising campaign the average consumer will never know the difference between the several cloths available in the market.