Top Ways Businesses Protect Essential Trade Secrets
Important Steps You Must Follow To Protect Your Trade Secrets
Trade secrets can be what make your business successful. They could be proprietary procedures or materials used in your services or goods, which make them special and help you beat the competition. Or they could be information or data about your company that is key to your operations, such as financial information, a secret formula, or a proposed partnership.
Keeping these trade secrets confidential can protect the profitability and future of your company. It is essential that you work with a Chandler experienced business attorney to take steps to protect your trade secrets, as well as to litigate any theft or dissemination of these secrets.
Identifying Trade Secrets
To protect your trade secrets, you need to first identify what those secrets are. You can’t just label any information you want a “trade secret.” It has to actually meet a legal definition. Trade secrets can include:
- A formula
- A method
- A process or technique
- A program
- A device
Trade secrets must also have commercial value. You must be able to show that their exposure would lead to some real, monetary loss to your company.
You should identify any trade secrets that your company has. For this purpose, you do not necessarily need to include anything already protected by a trademark or patent, as these fall under a different area of law. Catalog all your trade secrets, including who has access to them, how they are stored, and what security measures are in place to protect them. A Phoenix business attorney can help you identify potential weak spots in the security of your trade secrets and make recommendations for how to strengthen that security.
Create a System Of Confidentiality: Protect Your Trade Secrets
Keeping trade secrets a secret must be an intentional process. You must make employees who have access to the secrets aware of their confidential nature. You may even want to ask these employees to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Clearly label any documents as “confidential,” and dispose of any temporary documents containing confidential information after they have been used. If information is shared in a meeting, remind everyone in attendance that the information is confidential and remind them of their duty to protect it.
Educate Your Staff & Create Policies
You need to properly educate your staff about how to deal with trade secrets and about their legal obligations to keep this information secret. Not only will doing so reduce the risk that employees will unintentionally reveal trade secrets, but it will also protect you in case you ever have to go to court over it.
Develop clear policies about the handling of confidential information, and ask employees to sign agreements acknowledging and agreeing to these policies and their responsibilities surrounding trade secrets. Your Avondale business attorney can help you develop these policies and agreements, as well as counsel you on how to best educate your staff.
Monitor Abuse & Prepare An Action Plan
You must remain vigilant and monitor for potential abuse of trade secrets. The sooner you learn about a violation, the sooner you can take legal action and minimize your losses. Some red flags that your employees have shared trade secrets or may be considering doing so include:
- Being recently fired or laid off
- Being passed over for a promotion
- Being on a performance improvement plan
- Refusing to give an exit interview
- Taking home proprietary information without a need to do and without having authorization
- Showing an interest in issues outside the scope of their jobs
- Working overtime or unusual hours without authorization
- Disregarding policy against downloading material or installing programs
Your Gilbert business attorney can help you identify other potential red flags, as well as to develop systems for monitoring these. Your attorney can also help you set up an action plan so you can move quickly if you find any violations. You will likely need to include your IT department and HR so that you can conduct audits quickly to find the evidence you need and to determine the scope of the problem.
If you find that someone has shared your business’s trade secrets, your business attorney can help you get a remedy. A simple cease-and-desist letter may be enough to bring the matter to a resolution, or your attorney may negotiate or litigate for a monetary settlement to seek compensation for your losses.
Contact Our Experienced Business Attorneys In Chandler!
Call Denton Peterson Dunn today if you think that someone has stolen your business’s trade secrets or if you want to develop an action plan for protecting them. Our trusted business attorneys can act quickly on your behalf, either seeking injunctive relief or monetary damages. Alternatively, we can help you develop the policies and agreements needed to be proactive in protecting your trade secrets. We have offices in Mesa, Scottsdale, and Phoenix. Call us today to schedule a consultation with a business attorney and learn more about your options.