Innovation in a Time of Need – An Employment Perspective – Part 2December 15, 2021

In the previous post we talked about creating an environment that fosters innovation and encourages all employees at a company to participate in the process. This post will discuss protecting your innovation from other outside parties.

Now that you have created an environment that fosters innovation and you are seeing the benefits of your new initiative, what about protection? If an innovation works out, maybe it is time to think about making sure that you can keep this as a competitive advantage. In manufacturing, this should be a deeper thought. Many improvements to manufacturing processes take place behind the scenes, and may not be readily apparent from a final product. Think about trade secrets, which are things that provide economic value, and which are not known and kept secret. Incorporating innovative processes into the manufacturing process are ripe for this type of protection. However, it is important that there are some measures to keep the innovations secret. Once known, either through sharing of ideas with people outside the company, or independently figured out, there is no real protection. Thus, it is important to keep this known to as few as people as possible. Trade secrets last as long as the innovation is secret, which provides numerous advantages.

An example I consistently refer to is from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As you recall, a breakthrough piece of candy is developed called the Everlasting Gobstopper. However, during the tour, the machine that makes the candy is covered by blankets and other materials, which does not let the viewers or anyone else see how exactly they are being made. This is an example of keeping a trade secret a secret. To put with real life, covering, blocking, or otherwise preventing access to areas of secretive innovations is one way to keep your innovations secret to provide a competitive advantage.

In addition, the recognition of the innovation, as mentioned, will also aid in the secretive nature of the innovation, as employees who feel appreciated are less likely to share innovations with friends, family, or others who may work for other entities. This is especially true in areas where multiple companies are looking to hire from a common employee group, such as based on location.

Finally, there is always the consideration of patenting. Patents provide protection for up to 20-years and exclude others from making, selling, using, or importing into the U.S. a patented invention. While patents have great benefits, you must also consider that to get a patent, you must fully disclose your invention. For manufacturing processes, you could be telling others how you operate in a better manner. While you could exclude others from using the invention, it can be difficult to know exactly how operations are handled behind the scenes, such as in the process of manufacturing. Patents are great for products, improved processes that are identifiable, as well as systems that are utilized in a public space, and should be considered whenever an innovation is identified.

Innovation will be key to help companies, regardless of industry, to continue thriving through current climate and post-pandemic. All-inclusive companies will be in a far greater position for having identified ideas that stem from all areas of their company, and will come out as leaders into the next generation.

If you have any questions on how to implement such an innovative environment, or any questions on any type of Intellectual Property, please be sure to reach out to the attorneys of McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC, as we serve our clients at the intersections of science and art with the law, to protect their innovations and creations on a worldwide basis.

Luke T. Mohrhauser is a Patent Attorney and Chair of the Mechanical and Electrical Practice Groups at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit or contact Luke directly via email at


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