5 Smart Steps To Protect Trade Secrets
Most companies know they have to keep the confidentiality of their trade secrets to maintain their product uniqueness or competitive advantage. However, some of the people who work for the company are bound to know at least some of the elements or salient points of their trade secrets.
A company should consciously manage the access and usage of its trade secrets to prevent unauthorized disclosure. If you’re a business operating out of Florida, you might want to consider consulting with professionals who specialize in non compete agreement Florida. There are several measures you can adopt to secure your commercial secrets and other resources. Here are a few suggested steps on how a company can protect its trade secrets.
1. Have A Plan On How To Keep Them Secret
The first thing that businesses should do to protect their trade secrets is to make sure that they keep them secret. In practical terms, this means that they should restrict access to their trade secrets only to a limited number of officers of the company or corporation.
Only those who absolutely need to see these Secrets of Trade should be allowed into the ‘innermost sanctuaries’ where the company’s trade secrets are stored or deposited. They should require these people to sign contracts with non-competition or non-disclosure clauses if they leave. Litigation is one way to protect intellectual property, but sometimes even litigation can’t take back the value of the best-kept trade secrets when they’ve been laid bare in the open.
Two main vulnerabilities could lead to the disclosure of trade secrets. The first vulnerability is inadvertent disclosure — when the trade secret is either taken away from or voluntarily leaked by a person authorized to know the trade secret. The second vulnerability is when the trade secret is stolen by people who aren’t authorized to know or have possession of the secrets of Trade.
The company should have a plan to keep the secrecy of trade secrets and prevent both inadvertent and intentional breaches of secrecy. The trade secret management plan should include ways to store the trade secret and identify persons responsible for protecting the trade secrets.
It should also include procedures for handling information relating to the secrets of Trade and monitoring access and use of the trade secrets. The plan should also include a way to track persons who can access secrets of Trade.
2. Separate The Elements Of Trade Secrets
To protect secrets of Trade, a company should seriously consider setting up checks and balances in how the secrets of Trade can be accessed and utilized. One of the most practical ways of physically protecting secrets of trade is to separate the elements of the trade secret and store these elements in separate storage places.
This would somehow reduce the risk that someone might get access to the whole trade secrets and appropriate the secret for their own commercial purpose or monetary gain. If they try to access the trade secret, they might get hold of one or a few elements. But they won’t be able to see the whole thing if its various elements are kept in separate storage places.
Here are some of the practical ways by which businesses can separate the various elements of secrets of Trade:
- For example, a multinational fast-food chain might have secret recipes for its top-selling food product offerings. They may also have secret cooking procedures and techniques. The company should consider storing the elements of these secret recipes in separate storage places.
- Another example would be companies in food processing that may have secret ingredients, recipes, or procedures. The food processing company should consider hiding the different storage places. This would significantly reduce the likelihood that an unauthorized person might get hold of all the elements of a recipe or procedure.
3. Implement Controls On Physical And Electronic Access
Another helpful way to protect secrets of Trade is to implement controls on who can have physical or electronic access to a company’s trade secrets. There are basically only two ways of gaining access and possession of trade secrets, and those are to have either physical or electronic access. A company should implement controls to address the vulnerabilities of their trade secrets to possible unauthorized access or possession by people who aren’t supposed to see them.
Electronic access through remote work should be highly restricted. Here are some of the practical ways by which a company can implement controls on who can have physical and/or electronic access:
- Create and establish a policy on who can have either or both physical and electronic access to the various elements of your trade secrets. This policy should be made known and implemented throughout the company.
- Set up technical restrictions on electronic access to trade secrets. Classify the level of permissions that the different employees would have. Only those who absolutely need to see the elements of trade secrets should be given the appropriate permissions to access the relevant servers, folders, and files.
- Create and set up access restrictions to highly confidential folders and files. The company can restrict downloading of files and restrict access to read-only access. They can also put-up passwords to the various files containing the trade secrets.
4. Develop And Implement A Risk Management Plan
Another crucial aspect of a company’s efforts to protect its trade secrets is that it should develop and implement a risk management plan. The company should do an honest-to-goodness assessment of the various vulnerabilities in their existing system that could be exploited by people who want to get hold of their trade secrets. They should also identify the potential threats to their vulnerabilities and develop mechanisms to manage the threats and vulnerabilities.
Here are some of the practical methods which they can include in their risk management plan:
- The company should assess what parts of their existing system, infrastructure, physical storage places, network security, and server access are vulnerable to a potential breach or violation of trade secrets
- They should develop and implement the various practical methods and techniques which can help keep their vulnerabilities to the barest minimum possible
- They should also try to forecast and identify the possible indicators and triggers that they should be watching out for as potential early warning signs (EWS) that unauthorized access or use of their trade secrets might be on the way or already ongoing
5. Prepare Damage Control And Remediation Measures
A company should prepare damage control and remediation measures should their worst nightmares happen; when their most treasured trade secrets are breached by unauthorized access, use, or distribution. The company should have a documentation system that is initiated when an employee or worker starts showing signs that they may be taking too much interest in gaining access to the complete trade secrets of their employer. They should also develop measures to minimize damage or prevent further unauthorized access or use.
The success of some of the largest multinationals is mostly attributed to their commercial trade secrets. They know that what people like most about them lies in the secret of how they make their products that good. They also know that they’ll most likely lose this edge if their competitors find out their trade secrets. This is why all companies must devise ways to protect their trade secrets.