Trade secrets, together with patents, trademarks, and copyrights, are one of the four main types of intellectual property. Unlike the three other types of IP, trade secrets are never made public. Trademarks and service marks are obtainable only through public use that creates an association between the mark and the origin of specific goods or services in the minds of the consumer. Copyrights are generally agnostic to publicity, but most copyrighted material is shown publicly in some form. While public disclosure before filing a patent application can destroy your patent rights, if your patent application is allowed it will always be made public. Public disclosure of your trade secret will destroy it – they’re like vampires, they live in the shadows and any exposure to light will kill them.
So how do these four different types of intellectual property interact? Let’s look at KFC as a case study. Many people around the world are familiar with the initials ‘K-F-C’ and the character Colonel Harland Sanders. The initials ‘K-F-C’ and the image of Colonel Sanders are both trademarks registered by KFC Corporation with the USPTO. These are classic trademarks – most consumers know and associate KFC® and the Colonel Sanders character with the chain of friend chicken restaurants owned by Yum! Brands. Continue Reading