The protection of trade secrets is as necessary for a small business as it is for a world-famous company.
You may not have to protect the recipe for a secret sauce but protecting your own trade secrets is essential. Here are four ways to go about that.
Make a list
The first step is to identify your intellectual property, or IP. Certain types of information may be of great value to your company such as formulas, customer or supplier lists, techniques and processes, and, yes, recipes.
You might mark a document “Confidential,” but you must then treat it as such. For trade secret information on paper, store the document in a filing cabinet you can lock. For any such information on the computer, set up electronic files and limit the access.
Educate your staff
Make sure every new-hire signs an employment agreement that includes a nondisclosure agreement. The latter should prohibit the sharing of company information both during employment and after the employee leaves the company. It is also a good idea to remind all employees periodically about the importance of keeping trade secrets confidential.
Understand the law
If you find that an employee, former employee or competitor has violated trade secret laws, act quickly. Some violations could arise from criminal activity, such as corporate espionage. However, most are civil actions. If you win a case involving IP infringement, you can expect the violator to pay monetary damages including any profits he or she made, plus court costs and the fees for your attorney since the intellectual property belongs to you.