What are the consequences of disclosing confidential information?
Minneapolis patent attorney Tim Grathwol explains possible consequences of disclosing confidential information.
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What are the potential consequences of disclosing confidential information? The basic consequence is that you’re going to lose some intellectual property right, potentially. So, if I disclose a trademark, the idea for a trademark or multiple marks before I actually use that in commerce in association with particular services or goods, I could potentially lose that. Someone could take it and start using it before me. And that’s the manner which those types of rights mature.
In the case of a patent, if I disclose the invention outside of the company before I patent it, I could be prevented from getting the patent myself, even if I am the original and true inventor, under the patent laws. I could also be prevented from – that’s in the US as well as outside the country. So basically, if I disclose confidential information, I run the risk of not being able to own an intellectual property right to that information. With respect to intellectual property, the basic problem is that you may lose the right to own that property. So, in the case of a patent, if you’ve got an invention that you might get a patent on and you disclose information related to the invention prior to filing a patent, you can lose the ability to get a patent. You can be barred completely from it, whether it’s in the US or outside the US. The same is true with other types of intellectual property – some of them, intellectual property.
The other reason you don’t want to disclose confidential information is just from a business perspective. You may lose some competitive advantage. If you disclose a trade secret, it’s no longer a trade secret. So you may give away, in essence, your secret method of manufacturing a particular product to a competitor. So, there can be substantial consequences to disclosing confidential information, and so you want to guard it closely.