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Basic steps in protecting trade secrets

Part of starting or maintaining a successful business involves maintaining competitive business advantage. This commonly calls for a business to create and incorporate trade secrets that enable the business to keep a unique aspect that sets them apart from others in the same field.

Unlike a patent, which is registered with the federal government, there may be questions over what actually constitutes a trade secret when it comes to litigation. After all, how can you protect something that you do not want to be exposed when a third party (namely the court) has to evaluate it?

The answer is: you have to incorporate protections before the secret becomes a subject of litigation. Essentially, there are several steps that must be taken to even establish confidential information as a secret; and after that, there must be consistent policies in place (that must be followed) to limit exposure to other people to maintain the integrity of the secret.

This post will highlight a couple of ways to make this so. 

Keep the information secret - While this may seem obvious, the first part of maintaining a trade secret is to keep it within a certain circle of people. For example, only a small number of executives should know about it.

Incorporate internal protections - Besides limiting the number of people who may access the information, it should be kept behind several layers of protections; whether it may be electronic protections or physical barriers.

Train employees who work with trade secrets - Besides having all employees who work with such information sign non-disclosure agreements, they should be trained on how to handle such information so that leaks can be prevented. 

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