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How to Guard Your Trade Secrets (and Why You Must)

How to Guard Your Trade Secrets (and Why You Must)

Trade secrets are key to the survival of any business, but if you aren't careful, modern technologies like BlackBerrys and USB drives (or loose lips) can help them walk right out the door--and without a well-written contract, you may have little legal recourse.

Protective Measures

If you have trade secrets to protect, you should have a plan and procedures for maintaining your secret:

  • Have every employee, consultant, and contractor signing an appropriate non-disclosure agreement.
  • Your internal procedures should require that every confidential document be prominently marked as "confidential." Be selective though. It's counterproductive to mark things like today's lunch order as confidential.
  • Shred documents when you must destroy them. Confidential computer files should likewise be wiped not deleted.
  • Place appropriate proprietary notices on all the material that your company distributes.
  • Restrict access to confidential information to those who truly have a need to know. You should work under the assumption that most people feel the need to share a secret with one person. Keep your secrets under wraps. Lock your confidential information in a secure filing cabinet in a secure room. If your information is digital, encrypt it. Think about where you have your photocopying machines and scanners. Put them as far as possible from your confidential files.
These are just examples of steps you can take to preserve your secrets. Remember that once proprietary information loses its trade secret status, you can never get it back again. Be careful.

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