Trade secrets are invaluable to your company’s success. Unfortunately, this value also makes them attractive to thieves. Once your trade secrets have fallen into the hands of your competitors, they are all but worthless.
Although theft is a constant threat, there are some key steps you can take to help ensure the protection of your trade secrets.
1. Find out which secrets require protection
This might be stating the obvious, but it’s impossible to overstate the importance of identifying the types of information that you wish to protect. If you take protective steps toward too little of your company’s information, your vulnerability is exposed. If you take protective measures toward everything under the sun, you dilute the power of trade secret protection. Finding the right balance is essential.
2. Properly label documents
You can’t simply wave your hand over a file and declare it protected. Anyone who comes across a file or other document that’s trade secret protected needs to be aware of the status of the document. Be sure your sensitive company information is labeled “confidential” or “for internal use only.”
3. Ensure your storage methods are secure
This means keeping hard copies under lock and key. Computer files should reside on a secure server and have password protections. It might be worthwhile to perform a security check. If you have an IT department, ask them to review your system. If you don’t have an IT department, you can hire an outside company. Address any weak spots a security check uncovers.
4. Limit the information you provide to outsiders
When you are working with an outside company, figure out exactly how much they need to know. You should only provide an outside source with as much information as they need to get their job done. If revealing a trade secret is unavoidable, be sure to have the outside entity sign a confidentiality agreement.
5. Broaden your horizons
Trade secret theft is not just a United States problem. If your business has any type of international reach, be careful what you reveal to others.
If, after taking all reasonable precautions, you still find your company victimized by trade secret theft, consider your available legal options. It might be possible to contain the damage and to recover compensation for your losses.