It’s Not Why You Should Protect Trade Secrets–It’s How You Protect Them
Protect your trade secrets. It’s one of the most widely accepted practices in business. But while you may know why you protect your trade secrets, you may also be wondering—how do you protect your trade secrets?
Trade secrets have a unique characteristic to them, when it comes to protecting them. The more you try to protect them, the more likely they are to be considered trade secrets. In other words, courts will often look at your behavior, policies, and procedures as applied to things you contend are trade secrets, to see if those things are, in fact, really trade secrets.
That means that taking steps to afford protections is important. But what should you do?
Employees – How do you treat employees that have access to trade secrets? The more security you put on them, the better it is. If they have passcards, log in records, if they are monitored, or if there are physical locks, or encrypted computer key codes, these will go a long way to demonstrating you consider information to be private and protected.
Employees should be limited in what they can access. If every single new hire gets a customer list and an explanation of how you create your product, it is unlikely that information will be seen as very secretive.
Inventory – For physical or electronic information, are you keeping track of what is there, to ensure there is no loss? Is there some way to control and keep track of who sees, accesses, or touches any trade secret property?
Lawsuits and enforcement – It is always distasteful to sue, or to threaten to sue. But a Court will look at how strongly, aggressively, and diligently, you safeguard a threat of misappropriated trade secrets. Taking immediate legal action goes a long way to demonstrating how serious you are about your trade secret information.
Computer systems – Trade secret information should be segregated from the normal computer systems your employees use. The information should be on a separate server, or have a separate password, or only be accessed by the use of designated devices or terminals.
Termination – When employees are terminated or they quit or resign, is there a policy in place to ensure they aren’t clearing out their desk with your trade secrets? Or that they aren’t downloading your files to their home devices? There should be a strict policy as to the steps that your business takes, when employment with an employee ends.
Training – Your company should do training to teach employees how to protect trade secrets, or at least, provide them with information in written form, about how to safeguard information—including reporting procedures when it is suspected that someone is taking or misusing trade secrets.
A plan – Do you have a plan in place, in the event that a trade secret gets stolen, leaked or misused? You may need to shut down parts of your network, or designate an employee to head up an emergency committee, or even take steps to ascertain exactly what information has been lost.
We can help you protect and enforce your trade secrets. Call the West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.