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What is reverse engineering?

Reverse engineering occurs where someone legally obtains a product (for example, purchasing it from the company or from a retail outlet), and then discovers how that product works or how it was put together by carefully studying it, taking it apart, experimenting on it, etc. Reverse engineering is a very common industrial activity, and as long as the underlying product was legally obtained, this is a proper means of learning about someone’s trade secret.

This is one of the reasons that a patent is sometimes preferable to a trade secret. Even if someone reverse engineers a patented product, they cannot use it without the patent owner’s permission. However, they are free to use a reverse engineered trade secret without seeking any permission from the trade secret’s owner.