Patents and copyrights provide incentives to authors and inventors, but these incentives are balanced by public benefit when works of authorship and invention fall into the public domain. Similarly, while trademark owners benefit from legal protection of marks with which they identify and distinguish their goods and services, so do consumers, who rely on these marks in choosing among goods and services in the market. The public benefit for the legal protection of trade secrets is more opaque than that for patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Nevertheless, trade secrets are recognized (at least in the U.S. and other common law jurisdictions) as a category of protectable intellectual property.
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