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Know-how refers broadly to any non-public information that individuals or companies acquire regarding how to or more easily use something in a business. The term is extremely broad and its nature depends on the knowledge being discussed. Usually, know-how describes knowledge that increases the benefits or reduces the burdens of using something. This can describe the actual creation of a product or something more strategic like the management of a business.

Know-how may or may not be legally protected knowledge. If the know-how satisfies the requirements for trade secret protection, then the creator of the know-how retains intangible property rights over the trade secrets and has a legal remedy to damages for misappropriation of the trade secrets. However, much know-how will not qualify for trade secret protection. Companies often spend a lot of time and money protecting their know-how regardless through contracts with their business partners and employees. Often, relationships that involve sharing know-how such as licensing to another company retain strict contractual obligations on the other party to never disclose the know-how, giving the creator of the know-how contractual remedies against any disclosure. For more information on trade secrets, click here

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]