The words “intellectual property” probably make you think about works that are copyrighted or trademarked like catchy company slogans or taglines. While this is true, it’s not all that intellectual property covers.
Intellectual property (IP) also includes trade secrets, which covers private information related to your business, such as programs, processes, techniques and tools that give you a competitive advantage. Therefore, protecting trade secrets from theft and public release is crucial.
An angry or opportunistic former employee could take your client list to a competitor to give them an edge. Confidential procedural documentation could end up misplaced or lost. No matter the cause, it is vital to protect your business from the theft of your trade secrets.
Take the following tips into consideration for protecting your trade secrets:
- Provide secure devices and storage. Whether you use computers or storage cabinets to secure proprietary information, they should be as secure as possible. Computers should be password protected, storage containers should have locks, and access to confidential material should be limited.
- Label documentation properly. Mark confidential documents to prevent any confusion. Only employees with clearance should be able to access these documents. It’s also ideal to limit copies of classified documents so that it’s less likely for them to go missing.
- Offer onsite security. Posting guards at the entrances and requiring employees to use badges to enter or exit can ensure your building is secure from outsiders. For smaller companies, security cameras may be useful if hiring security officers is outside of your budget.
- Train your employees. Your employees must know how important it is to keep trade secrets a secret. Provide non-disclosure agreements, training courses and take disciplinary action if someone violates the procedures.
These steps can help you secure private information. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to protect your business from trade secret theft, consult with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your rights to your intellectual property.