Trade secrets — the information that your company owns and jealously protects from its competitors — have a lot of value. If you’re a business owner today, you’d be very remiss not to take steps to protect your trade secrets. In fact, failing to do so means that you could lose the right to call some of that information a “trade secret” at all.
Whether you, like the Coca-Cola company, keep a secret recipe that’s important to your success or you’re seeking to protect your business methods, processes and proprietary programs, here are some steps you should take:
- Identify what you consider your trade secrets. Don’t waste energy or resources on anything that’s not truly unique or secret, however, because that weakens your position.
- Identify any relevant documents as confidential and label them as such. You want to make files and documents instantly identifiable as private company business.
- Restrict access to these pieces of information. If necessary, require documents to be signed in and out. Further secure access by restricting passwords and creating a tiered-entry system to your computers for employees, if needed.
- Assess your security needs. You may need nothing more than a locked safe or a secured filing cabinet — or you may need an armed guard. Badges, code keys and other devices can also increase security and keep out interlopers.
- Create a secure atmosphere. This means stressing the importance of protecting trade secrets within the company. Make sure that employees understand the requirements to sign in and out. Limit the access the public has to your facility, workspaces or computers.
- Maintain confidentiality agreements with outside parties. Your vendors and independent contractors, for example, need to sign an agreement that will legally require them to protect your trade secrets.
Protecting a trade secret can be a big job. An experienced attorney may be able to help.