Your company devoted years to developing this new product requiring a diverse team of employees that relied on formulating a number of innovative processes. With the project completed, the product eventually gets introduced to the market and makes a splash. Next, the race to get several patents really turns into a slow trudge because securing one with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office takes years.
You know the patent will give your company an advantage over competitors. During the wait, one of your key team members defects to a rival firm. A twinge of suspicion surfaces. Your former colleague knows so much about the product along with the trade secrets. Months later, your rival introduces a similar product. Your instincts were correct.
Protect your company, be vigilant
Here are some steps to take if you suspect a former employee has stolen trade secrets:
- Thoroughly understand what you legally can protect. This would include a trade secret, which is valuable and only a few people know about.
- Protect your trade secrets and important company information. Having employees and contractors sign and abide by non-disclosure agreements is an effective way to protect intellectual property.
- Minimize former employees’ ability to access trade secrets. Promptly revoke computer access and passwords to employees who resigned or were fired and swiftly escort them from the company’s building. Do not let them back into the office.
- If you suspect any misbehavior, investigate the employee and his or her activities. Retain an experienced attorney if you do not have in-house representation. Also, work closely with your company’s IT security division.
This situation will likely turn into a lawsuit, but some small companies may not have deep pockets it takes to go this route, which also can take years to resolve. The best thing to do is to protect yourself from ever having this happen.