Jerry J. Goldstein

Seeking SUCCESS For You And Your Business

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Firm News
  4.  » Trade Secrets vs. Patents vs. Copyrights 

Trade Secrets vs. Patents vs. Copyrights 

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2022 | Firm News

Trade secrets, copyrights, and patents are powerful intellectual property (IP) tools used by individuals and businesses to protect their ideas, innovations, and original works, distinguish their brands or gain an economic advantage over their competitors.

Although each IP tool offers different protections, many people often mistakenly confuse them with each other. It is important to get advice from a California intellectual property law attorney who can help you understand the differences between trade secrets, copyrights, and patents.

At the Law Offices of Jerry J Goldstein, we have the background and knowledge to walk clients through intellectual property-related matters. We have the resources to sit down and discuss your individual circumstances and inform you about how trade secrets, copyrights, and patents differ from each other, as well as the types of protections they offer.  And we have relations with a number of attorneys whose practice focuses solely on intellectual property matters to assist our clients when appropriate

The Law Offices of Jerry J Goldstein is proud to serve clients throughout the Coachella Valley, including Palm Desert, California, as well as communities in and around Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties, among others.

Protecting Intellectual Property

Intellectual property remains a great way to protect the name of your company and its products and services, your business logo, inventions, original works of authorship, and creative ideas. However, there are different methods to protect each type of intellectual property. Here are some common types of intellectual property – trade secrets, copyrights, and patents – with examples and a brief explanation of the protections they offer.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are confidential business information that give companies or businesses an economic advantage over their competitors. Trade secrets may include patterns, programs, methods, inventions, algorithms, formulas, and procedures that are used for business operations but are not known to everyone.

Elements of a Trade Secret

In order to regard a piece of information as a trade secret, it must have the following elements:

  • It must have a commercial value to the company or business due to its confidentiality or secrecy.
  • It must only be known by a limited number of people.
  • The rightful owner must take reasonable steps to keep it confidential and protect its secrecy.

What Protections Do Trade Secrets Have?

Additionally, a trade secret protects the following:

  • Ideas that give a business a competitive advantage.
  • Information discovered during research and development.
  • Valuable business information, such as techniques, marketing plans, processes, and customer data.
  • Competitors’ knowledge that the company is developing a product or service.
  • Any other information that is not generally known to everyone and is valuable to the company.

Examples of Trade Secrets

Some common examples of trade secrets include:

  • McDonald’s Special Sauce (Big Mac Sauce)
  • The Google search algorithm
  • The secret ingredients for Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • The chemical formula and manufacturing processes for WD-40
  • Lena Blackburn’s Baseball Rubbing Mud

A well-read California business law attorney can help outline a useful strategy to protect your trade secrets or represent you in your trade secret misappropriation lawsuit.


A copyright is a vital IP tool for protecting original works of authorship, including dramatic, musical, artistic, and literary works. Overall, a copyright protects all forms of creative expression. With this, the owner can prevent other people from copying their creative ideas and original works.

What Can Be Protected Using Copyright?

Copyrights protect a vast spectrum of original works including, but not limited to:

  • Paintings
  • Novels and works of nonfiction
  • Technical drawings
  • Songs
  • Poetry
  • Computer software and programs
  • Sculptures
  • Advertisements
  • Databases
  • Movies
  • Architecture

Copyright Owner’s Rights

Copyright ownership gives the owner or author of an original work or the person who holds the copyright some exclusive rights. These include:

  • The right to display the work publicly.
  • The right to perform the work publicly.
  • The right to create derived works based on original work, such as spin-offs or sequels.
  • The right to reproduce and make copies of an original work.
  • The right to perform sound recordings publicly through digital audio transmission.
  • The right to distribute copies of original work to the public by sale or control how the works are transferred to others, such as by rental, sale, lease, or lending.

A trusted lawyer can educate you about the process involved in registering a copyright, walk you through the necessary steps, and help ensure a successful application.


A patent is a license, authority, or right issued to an inventor by the federal government which gives the inventor the right to exclude other companies from using, selling, importing, or making the invention for a specified period of time.

Types of Patents

Here are some common types of patents:

  • Utility patents
  • Design patents
  • Method and process patents
  • Mechanical patents
  • Software patents
  • Electrical engineering patents
  • E-commerce system patents
  • Plant patents

Examples of Patents

Below are some common examples of patents: that have been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office:

  • The Computer
  • The Telephone
  • The Electric Lightbulb
  • Google PageRank
  • The 3D Printer
  • Bluetooth
  • The Internal Combustion Engine
  • The iPhone
  • The Maglev (Magnetic Levitation)

If you want to apply for a trade secret, patent, or copyright, or if your trade secrets, patents, or copyrighted works were stolen or used without your consent, you need to get in touch with a knowledgeable business law attorney immediately. Your lawyer can assess your specific situation and determine the best course of action.

Skilled & Accessible Legal Cou

If you are in an intellectual property matter relating to trade secrets, patents, and copyrights, getting dependable legal help is crucial. At the Law Offices of Jerry J Goldstein, we enjoy directing clients through the complexities of intellectual property cases.

Whether you are filing a patent, copyright, or trade secret application or lawsuit or defending your business against an intellectual property lawsuit, we have the experienced guidance and representation you need. Our trusted legal team can direct you through the application, help you pursue damages, and seek to recover your rightful compensation.  As noted above, we have relations with a number of attorneys whose practice focuses solely on intellectual property matters to assist our clients when appropriate

Contact us at the Law Offices of Jerry J Goldstein today to arrange a simple consultation with a practiced business litigation attorney. Our team at the Law Offices of Jerry J Goldstein proudly serves clients throughout the Coachella Valley, including Palm Desert, California.

*Please note that in providing services outside of our immediate area, we generally don’t bill for travel time from our offices to meet at the business location or home of our clients.