Every business, large or small, needs to have procedures in place to protect Trade Secrets. A Trade Secret is a piece of information, not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, that gives a business an economic advantage over its competitors.
Some examples of Trade Secrets include:
- Recipes (Coca-Cola)
- Formulas (WD-40)
- Algorithms (Google Search)
- Common business information, such as customer lists, internal specifications, upcoming products, and best practice guides.
Trade Secrets can last forever – but legal rights in a Trade Secret only exist as long as the secret is maintained.
And Now: The Top 5 Ways to Protect Your Trade Secrets
- Maintain an Updated List of Valuable Information That Isn’t Known to Your Competitors. These are your Trade Secrets, and if you don’t know what they are, you can’t control them or ensure that they won’t become public information.
- Employ Multiple Means of Security. Examples might include physical security for documents and prototypes (keeping them under lock and key) or a secure password system for digital content that’s stored locally or in the cloud.
- Establish Best Practices. You and your team all need to be on the same page and to know what the security procedures are. Make sure these policies are written down and followed. The key is: don’t talk about or publicize your Trade Secrets.
- Use Non-Disclosure Agreements. Prepare NDAs for anyone who comes into contact with your Trade Secrets, such as employees, independent contractors, and partner businesses. It’s best to have these documents created or vetted by an experienced business attorney.
- Use Exit Agreements. Departing employees and contractors should sign written documents to ensure ongoing Trade Secret protection. You don’t want your Trade Secrets walking out the door along with an employee!
By applying these 5 tips, you’ll be on your way to protecting some of the most valuable information your business owns.