secret process

secret process
A mechanical or industrial process of value as an improvement of product or in an increase of production per unit of time. 52 Am J1st Tradem § 138. Such a method of manufacture or operation in the production of a commercial product as is understood to constitute a process under the patent laws; a mode of treatment of certain materials to produce a given result. It is a conception of the mind seen only by its results. Thus, where the ingredients used in the manufacture of an article were well known, but by combining them by a different method from any other in use the result is a product of a different character from that produced by the ordinary method of combining them, the method of mixing the ingredients and so treating them is a secret process. Taylor Iron & Steel Co. v Nichols, 133 Am St Rep 760. The difference between a secret process and a patent is that the owner of a patent has a monopoly against all the world, while the owner of a secret process has no right except against those who have contracted, expressly or by implication, not to disclose the secret, or who have obtained it by unfair means. The jurisdiction of equity to protect such trade secrets is founded upon trust and confidence. The court fastens the obligation upon the conscience of the party, and enforces it against him in the same manner as it enforces against a party to whom a benefit is given, the obligation of performing a promise on the faith of which the benefit has been conferred. Whether the subject matter is patentable or not, if the designer discovers and keeps secret a process of manufacture, though he will not have an exclusive right to it as against the public, after he shall have published it, or against those who in good faith acquire knowledge of it, yet he has a property right, which a court of chancery will protect against one who in bad faith and breach of confidence undertakes to apply it to his own use. Smoley v New Jersey Zinc Co. (DC NJ) 24 F Supp 294.

Ballentine's law dictionary. . 1998.

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