Q: Patents are important, but so are trade secrets. You seem to have invented a wonderful new formula for the efficient transmission of private and possibly coveted data. Knowledgeable competitors could study your patents to create even better solutions. Why make your company trade secret public by publishing a patent?
A: Patents vs. trade secrets is always a debate. We consulted with multiple patent law firms before we decided to go ahead with the patent approach. The IP lawyers universally endorsed patenting (even the ones not being paid to write the patents). The basic reasons are that (1) it is so fundamental an idea that patenting it creates a major problem for potential competitors, and (2) we are growing a thicket of patents in the “patent family” around the cornerstone patent that impose a serious barrier to companies wanting to do something similar. The key is to make it so difficult for someone wanting to build software around your patents that it makes more sense to license the technology or just offer to buy the company. We are continuing to grow the thicket; we plan to add several more patent applications in the near future.
We also have kept some trade secrets. The chief architect of the technology is a brilliant mathematician, Prof. Josh Cooper, and the code itself is exotic. On top of the sophisticated architecture, the nitty gritty of building the software demands some very high-level programmers and mathematicians who have specialized understanding of the particular requirements of our technology. Bottom line is, we think that the combination of patenting and trade secrets gives us the best shot at keeping competitors at bay. You can never be 100% sure you are right, but I feel good about how we have gone about this.