Many companies have invested a lot of energy into combating hackers that have attempted to steal their intellectual property (IP) in recent years. While cyber crime can be blamed for some of this information becoming public, it’s not the primary reason why trade secrets have been exposed. Data compiled by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shows that 85% of all state and federal IP cases can be attributed to employee misappropriation. Any company that maintains valuable IP rights such as trade secrets is required to take reasonable steps to protect its confidentiality.
All IP rights holders should take time to generally identify what information that they possess that’s proprietary so that it’s clear to business partners and employees what it is that the owners are looking to protect.
Anyone with rights to such valuable property need to draft procedures or policies for the safe handling of such information. They can develop a way to record who might gain access to such information. A small handful of individuals should know the trade secret and those individuals should be given access to it on a need-to-know basis.
Owners of IP rights can draft confidentiality agreements and have anyone who may potentially come in contact with their trade secrets sign them. The employee or contractor who signs the agreement should be trained as to what measures they need to take to protect that IP information. They should also be made aware of any penalties for disclosing it.
It’s the responsibility of anyone with IP rights to institute certain security measures to ensure that such information isn’t easily accessible. This may involve saving such information on a password-protected, highly secured electronic device or locking it away in a physical structure off-premises. It’s also their responsibility to perform regular assessments for vulnerabilities. All IP rights holders should continuously review their policies and procedures for protecting their trade secrets and update them as necessary.
One of the first things that a Roseville judge is going to ask you if you file a lawsuit against a business partner, employee, contractor or someone else for exposing your trade secrets is if you took reasonable measures to protect your IP from becoming compromised. A trade secrets attorney can review your timeline of events leading up to the breach and let you know whether it may warrant you filing a lawsuit in your California case.