Ever since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the stay-at-home order back in March, several California businesses have transitioned their workforce to work remotely. Some physical workplaces have since opened up, but many more are maintaining a remote work policy for the foreseeable future.
For many businesses, the ability of their employees to work from home has been very helpful during this time. However, it also involves a considerable risk – namely to a business’s intellectual property. As we discussed in a previous blog post, the economic situation created by the pandemic could lead to a wave of trade secret litigation.
What can business owners do to tailor their trade secret protection to this new landscape of work?
1. Reevaluate the protection program
Every business owner should have a trade secret protection program in place that covers essential aspects of security, including:
- The identification and access to trade secrets;
- Regulation of how and when employees use trade secrets;
- The establishment of confidentiality agreements; and
- Exit procedures to safeguard trade secrets.
However, business owners will have to review and revise this program to address the risks in the new reality of working remotely. For example, it might be helpful to limit access to trade secrets even more than usual. Remote employees should only access trade secrets when it is necessary.
2. Reconsider security
The process of securing trade secrets changes in the digital world compared to the physical workplace. When employees – and even supervisors – work from home, business owners must ensure they review their security. It might be necessary to:
- Require all employees to use a virtual private network (VPN); and
- Send out reminders to improve security for personal home networks and Wi-Fi.
Business owners might feel like they do not have much control over their security when everyone works remotely, but they must take steps to reclaim control through increased security measures.
3. Require new compliance training
Generally, business owners should require annual compliance training to reaffirm that employees understand the business’s trade secret security policies. However, business owners should arrange a new training for employees under these new circumstances.
Business owners must be flexible. They must always be prepared to adjust their trade secret protection program as necessary to improve security and prevent legal risks.