In the past, most of the value of a company was based on the physical assets that it held. Today, however, many companies derive their value from intellectual property, trade secrets, business strategies, and other items that are not physical in nature. If an employee or other party takes these types of non-physical assets and uses them for themselves or another company, it can cause significant issues. This is why it is just as important to take steps to protect company secrets as it is to ensure the doors of your home are locked when leaving at night. The following six strategies can help ensure your company trade secrets are as safe as possible, and your rights to them will be protected should someone attempt to steal them.
Keep Company Secrets Secret
If you have to defend your right to company trade secrets in court, one of the first things a judge will look at is whether or not these secrets were actually secret. If your business has openly discussed details of the secrets in question, you won’t likely win the case. If you want a specific piece of information protected, it must be very clear that it should not be discussed outside of the business and areas where the information is shared.
Require Non-Compete Agreements from Key Employees
Any employee who has access to company trade secrets should be required to sign a non-compete agreement. This agreement will prevent a prior employee from working for a direct competitor for a set period of years after leaving your company. This is an excellent precaution against the risk of that employee taking the secrets they learn to a competitor.
Require Non-Solicitation Agreements from Employees
When an employee moves on to another job (either with another company, or starting their own business) they often maintain relationships with people where they used to work. They may be tempted to try to solicit existing employees to come work for them, rather than remain in your company. This not only puts trade secrets at risk, but can have a negative impact on business continuity. A non-solicitation agreement can help prevent this from happening.
Require Non-Disclosure Agreements in Dealings with Other Companies
It is often necessary to reveal trade secrets to outside companies in order to get business done. Whenever this is necessary, the outside company (as well as any other key parties) should sign a non-disclosure agreement before any secrets are revealed. If they violate the agreement, that company can be held legally responsible for the damages.
Establish Strict Procedures for Marking of Confidential Information
Whenever talking about or working on things that are considered secret, it must be very clear that the information being used is confidential. Having strict policies that files and folders must be marked confidential, for example, helps to avoid any ambiguity or misunderstandings.
Make Use of IP Law
Leverage your options for trademarking, copywriting, or filing for patents on your company’s intellectual property whenever you can. Having these IP protections in place may not guarantee that your trade secrets will be safe from theft, but in the event they are stolen, you will be in a much stronger position to pursue legal action against the culprits.
Have Legal Counsel Review Company Policies
One of the most important things a company can do to keep their trade secrets safe is to hire an attorney to review their company policies regarding trade secrets. An experienced attorney can go through company processes, procedures, and policies to ensure they are all in line with the standard legal requirements for protecting company secrets. Contact the Reyes Law Group to set up a consultation with an experienced business attorney to discuss your trade secrets today.