Last week we shared information with you about how to identify and protect your trade secrets. This week we want to share more practical steps you can take within your business to increase the chances of confidentiality on trade secrets.
To recap, a trade secret is something that is not known or capable of being reverse engineered by others and which gives you an economic advantage over competitors or customers. As noted in our previous post, we advise keeping a record of the metadata connected with your trade secret(s) to summarise basic information about each one.
To ensure that each trade secret remains confidential, we also suggest taking the following precautions:
- identify valuable information and high risk areas;
- mark confidential or privileged documents as such and have written policies in place to ensure company-wide clarity and consistency;
- being mindful of staff relations, consider the careful use of “mystery shoppers” to check if confidential information can be seen or otherwise accessed;
- question new employees on their background so as to avoid utilising someone else’s trade secrets;
- train staff continually in the importance of trade secrets, ensuring they understand the company policy;
- when an employee leaves, conduct audits and ensure that all confidential documents have been returned to avoid the ex-employee taking a trade secret intentionally or accidentally, for example, check if it is permissible for your IT department to monitor outgoing document traffic in the time up to the employee’s departure;
- when working with third parties, use non-disclosure agreements tailored to what is to be shared and keep date stamped records of information shared, e.g. what, to whom, when;
- always follow up confidential discussions in writing affirming that, as was clear to everyone at the meeting, the information shared was confidential.
By following these simple steps, you can increase the chances of obtaining an economic advantage over competitors.