The digital age has made protecting trade secrets more difficult than ever. Read about how to protect your business practice now.
According to a recent Business Research and Development Survey, more than 50% of American businesses believe their trade secrets to be “very important.” Another 25% of them refer to their trade secrets as “somewhat important.”
These statistics should help illustrate just how essential it is for businesses to protect trade secrets at all costs. If a business is the victim of trade secret theft, it could impact everything from the bottom line to the morale of a company.
So, what are trade secrets? They could include top-secret recipes, manufacturing processes, and, in some cases, even marketing plans. And if they fall into the wrong hands, it could be disastrous for a company.
With this in your mind, your business should make protecting trade secrets a top priority, especially now that it’s entrenched in the digital age. Here are several ways in which you can beef up your trade secret protection strategy.
Begin by Identifying Trade Secrets
As we just alluded to, trade secrets can be any number of things. If you have a recipe you use to produce a food or beverage product, that will be a trade secret. A trade secret could also be the advertising campaign you’ve planned around a new service your company will be offering.
Even something like a new piece of software will be a trade secret. If there is something your company has created that you don’t want to get out into the world, this is a trade secret and must be protected at all times.
Perform Background Checks on Employees
When you think about protecting trade secrets, you more than likely think about protecting them from those outside your company. But oftentimes, it’s those inside a company that’ll leak trade secrets.
For this reason, it’ll be important for your company to conduct full background checks on every single employee who works for you. If these background checks reveal any causes for concern, that may be reason enough to stop an employee from working for your business.
The last thing you want to do is hire someone who might have ties to a rival company to work for you and pay the price for it. It could lead to them getting their hands on confidential trade secrets and giving them to this company.
You also want to try to shy away from hiring anyone who could become disgruntled at some point and leak trade secrets to get back at your company. You should only hire trustworthy people with excellent reputations to work for your business.
Ask Employees to Sign Confidentiality Agreements
Unfortunately, it isn’t going to be enough to simply perform background checks on employees when it comes to trusting them. You’re also going to need to get them to commit to keeping your company’s trade secrets confidential while working for your business.
To do this, you should have all your employees sign confidentiality agreements. Furthermore, you should include specific sections in these agreements that cover trade secret protection.
If any employees balk at the idea of signing these agreements, they might not be a good fit for your company. You’ll only want to have people on your team who understand the importance of protecting trade secrets fully.
Talk to Employees About Protecting Trade Secrets
There have been cases where employees at companies have accidentally allowed trade secrets to leak out into the world. For example, several employees at Samsung inadvertently let trade secrets leak while using ChatGPT recently.
With this in mind, your company will need to talk to employees about the importance of protecting trade secrets and train them on how to do it. You’ll also need to get into the habit of holding regular training sessions so that you can address new digital threats to your company’s trade secrets.
Limit How Many Employees Can Access Trade Secrets
If you own a very small company, it might be impossible to avoid letting what few employees you have access trade secrets. But if you own a large company or even a medium-sized one, it would be worth limiting the access employees have to sensitive information.
If employees don’t need to know your trade secrets to do their jobs, that will be reason enough to cut them off from these secrets. It’ll reduce the chances of these trade secrets falling into the wrong hands.
Secure Trade Secrets in a Digital Sense
Your company’s trade secrets are likely going to be stored on a server. They’ll also be discussed from time to time in emails and through other forms of communication within your company.
Your job will be to secure these trade secrets as best you can from a digital perspective. Your company’s network should be password protected. You might also want to use things like two-factor authorization and even biometric authentication to stop outside forces from accessing it.
You should lock down your email system, too, and encrypt any emails that might contain sensitive information in them. It’ll enable your employees to discuss these secrets without having to worry about prying eyes seeing them.
Monitor Systems for Breaches Involving Trade Secrets
No matter how hard you work to protect trade secrets, there is still a chance your system could be breached. This could put your trade secrets at risk and send everyone within your company into a panic.
This obviously won’t be an ideal situation. But at the very least, you should monitor your system so that you’re able to identify a breach fast. It’ll let you lock down your system to stop any other trade secrets from getting out.
Your company should have a response plan in place so that you can spring into action quickly. It’ll stop a bad situation from getting any worse.
Contact Us for Help With Trade Secret Protection
Are you concerned about the safety and security of your company’s trade secrets? The Berkeley Law & Technology Group can provide you with the assistance you need to protect them.
We can lend a hand with trade secret agreements and non-disclosure agreements. We can also handle trade secret enforcement and defense. Reach out to us for more information.