Trade secrets law as an alternative to protect university-level inventions

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper presented at Conference (not in Proceedings)


In addition to the conventional roles of a university such as providing education and performing research, today’s knowledge-based economy compels universities to play a neo-native role: inventing and commercializing inventions. Protecting inventions and other related information becomes significant in this process. While universities around the world attempt to rely on the patent regime to protect their inventions, it is evident that Sri Lankan universities have been granted very few patents. Against this backdrop, this research examines two important questions: (1) what are the legal impediments which may hinder universities in obtaining patents?; and (2) how and to what extent trade secrets may serve as a gap filling regime in protecting university-level inventions and related information? While adopting a black letter law approach, this research argues that despite the initiatives taken by the Sri Lankan government to facilitate and increase the university-based inventions and patents, the patent law of the country does not recognize and address the needs of the university level inventions. In fact, the patent law in Sri Lanka is not tailor-made to the specific domestic innovation needs. It has been noted that most of the Sri Lankan innovators are not in a position to reach the patent threshold, which comprises novelty (newness), inventive step, and industrial applicability which may be the main reason why there is a low number of patent-grants to local applicants. This research argues that the trade secrets regime can be regarded an alternative or at least, a supportive mechanism to the patent system for a number of reasons. For instance, protecting an invention as a trade secret does not require the inventor to satisfy a high threshold as is the case of patent. Instead, establishing the commercial value and secrecy of the invention; and taking reasonable steps to keep the secrecy is sufficient to receive legal protection. Also, the trade secrets regime may cover any related information from pre-invention phase to the commercialization phase. However, it is highlighted that there is a need for a balanced trade secrets regime which provides for the protection of university-level inventions while maintaining and furthering the universities’ contribution for the public benefit.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventNational Law Teachers Conference - University Grants Commission, Sri Lanka
Duration: 26 Mar 202226 Mar 2022


ConferenceNational Law Teachers Conference
Country/TerritorySri Lanka

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