Trade secrets are typically among a company's most important assets. This information is a solution, formula or technique that gives the business a competitive edge and sets it apart from others. And its value comes from the fact that it is not available to people outside the business.
While people often assume the biggest threat to trade secrets is theft by other companies, statistics suggest that internal theft is to blame for about 80 percent of information theft. In other words, your employees could be a bigger threat to the security of trade secrets than anyone else. As such, business owners would be wise to take the following five basic steps to protect trade secrets from internal theft.
- Identify trade secrets as confidential: Carefully consider which information is a trade secret, and then clearly mark that information as protected. This might include a statement or symbol on digital documents or a physical flag on paperwork. Keep these documents separate from non-confidential information and carefully monitor access.
- Password protect sensitive information: Make sure the password requirements are strong and that only relevant employees have access. These standards should apply to both digital and physical records.
- Create a trade secret policy: This policy should outline which information is protected and what the consequences are if an employee or other party reveals trade secrets.
- Educate employees: Employees should be aware of what information is a trade secret as well as their obligation to protect it. They should also understand what can happen if they shared such information. When employees know what they are protecting and why they must protect it, it is easier to avoid inadvertent disclosures.
- Take cyber security seriously: Companies use email, social media and file sharing and hosting services daily, and it is crucial to ensure these channels are secure. Businesses will want to have strong cyber security measures in place to prevent hacking or accidental sharing of protected information.
These measures can provide a basic level of protection and prevent unauthorized sharing or accessing of confidential information.
Should any issues arise with protecting trade secrets or taking action against parties accused of stealing confidential information, business owners can discuss their options with an attorney.