Innovation is a key driver of economic growth and business development. In an increasingly competitive world, protecting intellectual property has become a strategic necessity for entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and business owners. Two common ways to protect innovation are patents and trade secrets. In this article, we will explore the importance of these protection mechanisms and issue a call to action for business actors to commit to safeguarding their creations and fostering a secure innovation environment.

In the life of any business or enterprise, the business owner may face a dilemma when he wants to protect his Intellectual Property assets, specifically at the time of defining whether any invention or method or other confidential information in the sense of not knowing for sure, should be protected as a patent or as a trade secret. In order to guide and be clear on this issue, it should be taken into account, what is the difference between these two figures.

What is understood by patent of invention? Decision 486, when defining what is understood by patent, clearly states in its article 14, "The member countries shall grant patents for inventions, whether product or process in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, have an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application". From the definition contained in the regulations that govern us, we have that a patent is the right that the state gives us over an invention. Thus, this patent will give exclusive rights to the holder to use and exploit his invention and prevent others from exploiting or using it without his consent. A patent provides a new idea of doing things, or a solution to a problem. Likewise, with respect to a patent, it must be taken into account that the right it gives to its holder lasts for 20 years from the date of its application.

Invention patents are one of the main tools for innovation, since they protect inventions that are the basis for innovation and technology transfer and their protection and consolidation so that inventive activity is incessant, rewarding and encouraging inventors to continue their work of inventing new ways of doing things.

Having referred to patents, it is worth mentioning what constitutes industrial secrets. These are defined as knowledge about industrial data or procedures, kept by a natural or legal person, which gives its holder an advantage, improvement or competitive advantage over third parties in the performance of economic activities.

Companies and individuals use confidential information related to manufacturing, operation, sales and distribution processes, among others. Such information is of great importance as it becomes a competitive advantage over competitors. The main characteristic of industrial secrets is their confidentiality, their reserve and their difficult accessibility. In order to maintain their confidentiality, these secrets must be contained in physical documents or electronic media.

However, whoever keeps a trade secret must protect it by means of security systems, such as keeping it in offices, safes, warehouses, with restricted access, with technological tools, such as passwords, facial recognition, fingerprints, among others.

 What will be more advantageous then, keeping a trade secret or protecting an invention by means of a patent?

The industrial secret does not require registration, its protection is given by the measures implemented by the owner of the business on all that knowledge or Know How of the company, on the other hand it has already been seen that the process to obtain a patent, must be initiated and followed before the corresponding authority in each country. The industrial secret is governed more by the norms of unfair competition and when the confidentiality agreements that all the employees of a company must sign are violated, or these secrets become known to third parties, the corresponding action for unfair competition will be initiated. Industrial secrets are a good option for entrepreneurs, medium, large and small, if they do not have the necessary economic means to carry out the process of patent registration, due to the cost and the time it takes. They are also a good option to protect all the research and technological development that is carried out, before having all the requirements ready to file the industrial privilege application, with the objective of having a patent granted.

Undoubtedly, having a patent versus a trade secret gives the patent holder a clear legal security for twenty years, while the protection granted to the trade secret holder will depend on the security measures implemented by the business owner.

It is worth emphasizing that determining the appropriateness of protecting certain information by trade secrets or patents depends on several factors, including the nature of the innovation, the level of competition, the exclusivity right, the cost involved and the risks associated with the disclosure of such information. It should be noted that companies generally have strategies that combine strategies to protect their intellectual property strategies. 

In Bolivia, due to the low level of technological development, business information has to be protected through confidentiality contracts, also known as Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA), which are legal documents used to protect confidential or sensitive information that is shared between two or more parties. These contracts establish the conditions and obligations related to the handling and disclosure of such information. Confidentiality agreements are essential to protect the intellectual property, trade secrets, strategic information and other sensitive data of a company or individual. These agreements ensure that confidential information is not disclosed or misused, either during or after a business or employment relationship.

Confidentiality agreements can be tailored to the specific needs of the parties involved and the type of information to be protected. It is advisable to have the advice of a lawyer or legal specialist to draft and review the contract, ensuring that it complies with the laws and regulations applicable in Bolivia. It is important to emphasize that in order to determine what to do with the technological development of a business or a company, it is necessary to have a strategy, action plans and budget to follow. It is also important to emphasize that managers or business owners need to have confidentiality contracts, signed by employees, officials or include a specific confidentiality clause in the same labor agreements.

To businessmen, entrepreneurs and business owners, I invite you to take proactive steps to protect your inventions and trade secrets. Intellectual property is a valuable asset that can drive growth, generate economic benefits and promote confidence in markets.

Remember, protecting intellectual property not only benefits your company, but also the economy as a whole. Let's make innovation and intellectual property protection a priority in our business endeavors. Together, we will build a prosperous and competitive environment for all.