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Businesses often find themselves wondering whether to take the considerable step of applying for patent protection for their trade secrets.

So when should a patent be pursued? This inquiry often proves difficult. Patent applications become accessible to the public within 18 months, which means your once-secret, proprietary idea becomes public. This is often referred to as the trade off patentees make – in exchange for a 20-year monopoly on your invention and its equivalents, you permit the disclosure of your “secret.” The rationale behind this exchange is to encourage innovation and fair competition in the industry, and, as set forth in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, to “promote the progress of science.”

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