Protecting trade secrets when employees leave your company

An employee’s departure can have a significant impact on a business, especially if that person had access to or knowledge of private proprietary information. Under these circumstances, there can be concerns about the safety of trade secrets.

Employers can protect this valuable information in a few crucial ways.

Establish contractual protections

If you hire or promote someone to a position where they will learn about private company information, having them sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can be wise.

These contracts identify protected information and create a confidential relationship. When a person signs an NDA, they agree not to share or misuse trade secrets. If they breach a contract, they face serious legal, financial and professional consequences.

Hold exit interviews

Holding exit interviews can help employers glean important information about an employee’s experience and future employment. Employers may see red flags if an employee is bitter about their experience with the company or has accepted a job at a competitor. 

These interviews also allow employers to remind employees of any contractual agreements in place, like an NDA or non-compete agreements.

Further, employers can use an exit interview to collect company-provided equipment that could be utilized to access proprietary information.

Monitor proprietary information

Upon the departure of an employee with knowledge of trade secrets, changing information protections can be essential. Employers can change file passwords, login credentials and other measures that are in place to prevent unauthorized access to private information. 

Employers will also want to pay attention to where employees wind up working.

For instance, in a recent case between two luxury jewelry companies, Cartier accused Tiffany & Co. of hiring away employees for the purpose of stealing trade secrets. Cartier alleges that Tiffany employed at least two former employees to be a source of information. In one situation, Tiffany allegedly allowed a former Cartier employee to work on a project, despite having a non-compete agreement in place.

Protecting information to protect your company

These measures can help businesses safeguard the private information that gives them a competitive edge. In the event of infringement, these same efforts can be essential to prevail in a legal claim.