Secrets — Given the growing importance of trade secrets, it is imperative that companies design, develop and deploy a robust fit for purpose trade secret asset management process. Companies must also realize that the success of this process is dependent on the various people involved and how they carry out their roles and responsibilities.

What is an IP Process?

A process is an interrelated set of activities designed to transform inputs into outputs, which should accomplish your pre-defined business objectives. Processes produce an output of value to the customer, they very often span across organizational and functional boundaries and they exist whether you choose to document them or not. An IP process is a process related to intellectual property.

Intellectual Property processes perform many useful functions within an organization. They act as agreements and become part of the organization’s memory, ultimately ensuring the facilitation of good communication. Processes can be an implementation tool, enabling improvements to take place and ensuring repeatability. The IP processes you put in place can also support a learning and developing organization.

Examples of IP related processes are the patent creation process, the IP portfolio management process, the IP risk mitigation process, the IP exploitation process and the IP maintenance process to name but a few.

trade secret asset managementYour Organization’s Memory

Processes are the memory of your organization, and without them a lot of effort can be wasted by starting every procedure and process from scratch each time and possibly repeating the same mistakes. A process can be seen as an agreement to do certain things in a certain way and the larger your organization, the greater the need for agreements on ways of working.

First class IP processes also facilitate good communication between the information originator and the information receiver, because they help to set and manage expectations and the consistency of the information being given.

Roles and Responsibilities in an IP Process

Developing roles and responsibilities for a process is often challenging as there are oftentimes multiple perspectives and viewpoints to consider.  It commonly begins with the question of ownership and responsibility as an organization begins to understand the value of processes and implement actions to manage those processes.  Assignment of process ownership is one of the indicators of an increasing level of process maturity.

Trade Secrets & IP Processes

A trade secret can be a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, commercial method, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable by others, and by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers.

The subject matter of trade secrets is usually defined in broad terms and includes sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, marketing plans, supplier lists, client details, and manufacturing processes.

Trade secrets may encompass manufacturing or industrial secrets and commercial secrets.

Generally speaking, any confidential business information which provides a business with a competitive edge may be considered as a trade secret.

Trade secret legislation is clearly strengthening in key jurisdictions, interestingly at a time when other forms of IP seem to be weakening at least in some locations.

Trade Secrets Asset Management Processes

Deciding to keep something secret is not the end but rather the start of an interesting journey.

The trade secret asset management process is the process organizations need to design, develop and deploy in order to properly and professionally manage these important yet fragile assets.

At a very top level, the process consists of these key stages

  • Context
  • Identification
  • Analysis
  • Review
  • Protection
  • Monitoring

trade secret asset managementThe Different Roles and Responsibilities

There are a variety of different roles when it comes to trade secret asset management. Some of the key roles are listed here.

  • The person having overall responsibility for the trade secret asset management process
  • The person or persons who created the initial formula, process, algorithm, etc.
  • The people having access to the trade secrets, and of course different people may have different access levels to these trade secrets
  • The people responsible for the different protection mechanisms to be deployed to protect these trade secrets
  • The people responsible for conducting entry and exit interviews
  • The attorneys either in-house or external advising the organization on the legal aspects of trade secret management
  • The people responsible for reviewing the trade secrets from time to time to ensure everything is on order

This list is not complete by any means.

Hazel Helps Companies Identify Rank & Protect Their Trade Secrets

The Hazel Trade Secret Asset Management System may help your company manage its trade secrets and trade secret processes. Hazel can keep track of your corporate trade secrets and help you determine an appropriate level of protection for each trade secret recorded. Hazel can record who in your organization is responsible for a given trade secret, who is responsible for protecting the trade secret, and who has access to the trade secret, among other things. Contact the Hazel Team today to learn more.

For Secrets, I’m Donal O’Connell.


Caterpillar bulldozer by Shaun GreinerCAT D9T, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Memory by © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

“Alas, poor Yorick,” By Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, Public Domain, Link

Thomas Ewing is a commercial lawyer, registered patent attorney, and intellectual property counselor with more than 25 years of experience in the IP field.  In his consulting practice, Tom routinely advises international organizations, government agencies, universities, law firms, multinational corporations and financial institutions. Tom has been recognized as one of the world’s 250 best IP strategists by IAM Magazine in every edition of its IAM 250 since the list’s inception in 2009.