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WIPO Webinar for Judges on September 7, 2022: Trade secrets and patents – alternatives or complements?

August 1, 2022

Patents and trade secrets are two distinct forms of intellectual property. Patents are exclusive rights, granted for a limited term, for an invention that is new, involves an inventive step and is capable of industrial application. Patents encourage innovation by providing a government-sanctioned competitive advantage to the right holders, and in return requiring disclosure of the patented invention. After patent expiry, the disclosed innovation becomes part of the public domain.

Trade secret protection, on the other hand, is a right on undisclosed information that is known only to a limited group of persons, commercially valuable because it is secret, and has been subject to reasonable steps taken by the rightful holder of the information to keep it secret. Trade secret law aims to prevent misappropriation of trade secrets by unfair or commercially unacceptable means. Trade secrets can last as long as the information is kept confidential.

The two bodies of law governing patents and trade secrets are dissimilar in their subject-matter, the preconditions of protection, the scope and nature of rights conferred, the duration of those rights, and available remedies. Yet they are both considered IP rights and stay closely intertwined, with their interplay under growing scrutiny as increased attention is given to trade secrets.

Can the two rights nevertheless coexist and be recognized simultaneously for a technological solution?

Join three prominent judges from three continents, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Du Weike, Intellectual Property Division, Supreme People’s Court of China and Judge Peter Tochtermann, Patent Chamber, Regional Court of Mannheim, Germany, for an interactive webinar exploring issues such as:

  • Co-existence of patent law and trade secrets law and their respective policy roles in society, viewed through the prism of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kewanee Oil Co. v Bicron Corp, 416 U.S. 470 (1974);
  • Handling of confidential information during patent infringement proceedings by reference to the new section 145a of the Patent Act of Germany, in particular in disputes involving fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing of standard-essential patents, as well as approaches to maintaining the confidentiality of parties’ trade secrets during court proceedings while upholding the right to a fair trial; and
  • The impact of new technologies on the patent system and the evolving role of trade secrets in encouraging innovation,  by reference to recent legislative amendments and judicial interpretations in China.

The webinar will be conducted on September 7, 2022 (14.00 – 15.15 CEST) in English, with simultaneous interpretation provided in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. Participation is open only to judges and members of quasi-judicial bodies that are active in adjudicating intellectual property disputes.

Please register in order to participate in the webinar. Registration will be open until 18.00 on September 2 (CEST).


For any questions, contact the WIPO Judicial Institute at judicial.institute@wipo.int.