If you have trade secrets, there could be a tremendous toll if that information gets out to the public.
Thus, you must be sure you protect your trade secrets.
Do you have trade secrets to protect?
The first step in protecting proprietary information is identifying it as such. Trade secrets refer to anything that has economic value because it is not widely or publicly known.
Some examples of trade secrets include:
- Secret recipes for a signature food or drink offering
- Processes of selecting winners for notable awards
- Client lists
Businesses could choose other means of protecting these tangible and intangible assets, like securing a patent or trademark. However, doing so would typically mean making the information public, which is why parties may opt to protect proprietary information as a trade secret.
Which measures are effective?
If you identify trade secrets you want to protect, selecting the appropriate legal measures to do so is crucial.
Some options employers use to protect trade secrets include:
- Non-disclosure agreements with employees
- Confidentiality agreements with outside vendors
- Providing training on how to handle sensitive information properly
- Having employees sign non-compete agreements
Keep in mind that state and federal laws affect the efficacy of these solutions. For instance, in California, courts generally will not enforce non-compete agreements. And laws protect whistleblowers who disclose trade secrets that are also evidence of a legal violation.
If you want to be confident in your trade secret protections, you can consult an attorney familiar with laws, including the Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and California Uniform Trade Secret Act (CUTSA).
Do employees know the expectations?
Parties with knowledge of trade secrets must be clear on what you expect them to protect. This duty falls on businesses to ensure they identify and secure the information by:
- Specifically identifying trade secrets in legal agreements
- Restricting access to trade secrets (e.g., in password-protected files or locked cabinets)
- Keeping records of who has access
- Providing initial and ongoing training to educate parties on handling sensitive information
- Enforcing policies regarding document handling and sharing
- Conducting exit interviews with departing employees
These measures make sure that workers and outside parties know what you expect in terms of protecting trade secrets.
When you take these steps, you can ensure your trade secrets retain their value and confidential status.