Nearly any company that has managed to stay ahead of competitors has some sort of trade secret. Col. Sanders has his 11 herbs and spices (exact nature and combination unknown). McDonald’s Big Mac has its special sauce which, according to topsecretrecipes.com, is not much more than a tricked out Thousand Island salad dressing.
Developing something innovative is something most states want to encourage and so there are laws on the books that allow developers to protect proprietary information. But the laws also set out specific steps that must be followed to be sure protections are enforceable.
North Carolina is no different. To shelter business interests be sure to work with an experienced attorney. Here are some general tips to secure information that any business might consider following.
- Identify what you want to protect. The more specific you can be about the information you want to secure, the better. And if you anticipate additional developments could be made, create a system for bringing them under the protective umbrella.
- Mark protected information “confidential.“And don’t let it circulate without check out and check in controls.
- Monitor where it is stored and who can touch it. Do an information audit of storage places and means of access. The audit should cover hard copies and electronic files on any computer storage device, including cloud-based servers. Solid password protections are a must.
- Be cautious with outsourcing. Have all outside vendors you work sign confidentiality agreements. If you have a multi-part product, consider compartmentalizing, having the pieces produced by separate vendors.
- Take proper security measures. Some companies, like Apple, are noted for being obsessive about security. Visitors have to sign in and be accompanied by a badged employee. Taking pictures, even of outdoor spaces, is forbidden.
- Take care in setting employee training and policies. You have a right to prevent exiting employees from leaving with your trade secrets, but you need to be sure your policies conform to the law.
Source: FindLaw, “Protecting Trade Secrets,” accessed July 1, 2015