Role of Trade Secrets In Intellectual Property Protection: A Survey of the Literature, The

Intellectual Property

Article Snapshot


Anne Layne-Farrar and Josh Lerner


Working Paper, 2005


This paper asks when firms will use trade secrets to protect software.

Policy Relevance

We could make better public policy if we understand how firms choose between copyright, trade secret, and patent protection.

Main Points

  • Trade secrets have been available to protect intellectual capital for many years.


  • Studies show that, compared to patents and copyright, trade secret protection is:
    •  Easy to get.
    • Has the longest lifespan.
    • Requires the least public disclosure.


  • But if a trade secret becomes public, protection is lost, so trade secrets:
    •  Offer less protection.
    • Are harder to commercialize.


  • Because of these factors, developers use a mix of patent, copyright, and trade secrets, but trade secrets are a key element.

Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article