What are the differences between trade secret and patent?

Intellectual property comprises patents, trade secrets, trademarks and copyrights. In this we see about patents and trade secrets. Though both the words have a lot in common with new ideas, innovativeness etc. They differ from each other in some aspects like patent information can be shared where trade secret information can’t be shared. There are many more. In this we see the overview of both and their differences.


The original author or the person who registered first will get an exclusive right for a limited period of time on claimed matter. Patents act as a shield to the author, it prevents others from making use of it, sale, making etc. without permission.

If anybody uses it without permission the owner uses his/her legal rights and files a lawsuit against them in the court of law. There are many types of patents like process patents, machine patents, business methods, composition of matter, plant patents, design patents etc.

Each type of patent has its own validity, like lifespan of utility patent and plant patent is 20 years, life span of design patents is 15 years.

Trade secrets

Trade secrets allow companies to maintain some useful or important information which is gained through experience. This right gives them a legal mechanism against any individual who breaches the trust.

To obtain this company has to register first according to rules and regulations of concern governments and has to pay fees accordingly. Unlike other intellectual properties (patents, copyright and trademarks), this information is not publically shared as it has its own value and is economically valuable.

This information also contains some very sensitive technical information. As long as this information is part of company making, this information remains secret.


The major differences between a trade secret and a patent are as follows −

Trade secretPatent
Protects formulas, devices, compilations of facts etc.Patent is given to articles, compositions etc.
No particular time frame. It lasts as long as material remains secret.Lasts for a particular period of time.
Can be acquired immediately.Takes several years to acquire.
Covers more information.Covers less information, when compared to trade secrets.
Can take legal actions against who acquires without proper consent.Can take legal actions against people or organizations who manufacture, sell and use the product without proper consent.
Relatively inexpensive fees than patents.Expensive fees than trade secrets.
Example: Products formula etc.Example: Drugs etc.

Updated on: 16-May-2022


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