How Can a Business Protect Trade Secrets?
Intellectual property has become one of the most important types of property that exists. When your company has a proprietary process, a special formula or recipe, or any other information that is unique to your organization, this information may be considered a trade secret. The trade secret may be instrumental to the success of your business, and it has a tangible value.
In order to ensure that you safeguard your business secrets and maintain their value, it is necessary to take some basic steps to protect trade secrets. An Irvine business lawyer at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can provide you with guidance and advice on the ways that you can protect your proprietary information so it does not fall into the wrong hands or become public knowledge.
How to Protect Trade Secrets That Belong To Your Organization
There are several steps that you should take to protect your company’s trade secrets.
One of the most important things your business needs to do to protect trade secrets is to ensure that trade secrets are properly identified and labeled. You can only protect information that is actually kept confidential. Trade secrets must not be known by others, and you must show you have made efforts to protect the information.
You should ensure that all trade secrets are safeguarded through appropriate labeling as Confidential and through restricting access to the information. For example, each page of relevant documents containing trade secrets could be labeled: “THIS DOCUMENT INCLUDES CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION OWNED BY [YOUR COMPANY] DISCLOSURE IS PROHIBITED WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION.” While all proprietary information and trade secrets should be labeled, it is important not to overuse confidentiality disclosures as they could become less effective.
It is also important to make sure that employees do not disclose trade secrets, or take proprietary information with them if they go to work for another company. Employees may be asked to sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) if they are privy to confidential material. These agreements should be detailed, specific, and tailored to the company’s goals for protecting confidential information. Different NDAs may be necessary for different employees, depending upon the level of privileged information the individual worker is able to access through his or her work duties.
Employees can also be asked to sign non-compete agreements, but courts in California have generally not been favorable to the enforcement of non-competes and even under the best of circumstances these agreements are enforced only if they are very narrowly tailored. Non disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements may be a better solution to protect trade secrets, especially if there are also written company policies related to nondisclosure of proprietary information in company handbooks and other employee materials.
Knowing how to protect your trade secrets is the key to the continued profitability of your organization and is essential to your company’s growth. In the information age, intellectual property is more valuable than ever and secrets are more vulnerable than ever. Contact an experienced Irvine trade secrets lawyer at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP today to learn more about how to protect trade secrets.