Protecting Your Company's Trade Secrets
Almost all businesses have information that qualifies as trade secrets. In Texas, a trade secret is any information that (1) the business has taken reasonable efforts to keep secret and (2) has actual or potential independent economic value to third parties because it is generally unknown and not readily ascertainable by proper means. Possible examples are formulas, methods, techniques, processes, financial data, cost and pricing info, marketing plans, personnel information and lists of customers or suppliers.
Like any other secret, the best way to protect trade secrets is to do just that, protect them! Develop and use confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements with your employees and third parties. When an employee under such an agreement quits or is fired, give them a written reminder of their obligations under the agreement.
Mark and identify all documents containing trade secrets as “Confidential Information”. This takes nothing more than a $10 stamp from Office Depot. Keep hard copies of the information under lock and key, and encrypt/password protect digital copies. Make sure your company’s computer network is secure.
Do your due diligence on new employees. If they offer to tell you the trade secrets of the company they just left, then why would you expect them not to eventually disclose yours!
Only disclose trade secrets to employees whose job duties require access to them. If you use a proprietary device or process in your business, limit access to that area to only those with a need to be there. Consider prohibiting photography and smart phones in those areas.
If you believe trade secrets have been stolen from your business, consider litigation. If the misappropriation of legitimate trade secrets harms your business, you may be able to sue for money damages. And it is also possible for your company to request a Court to enjoin the thief (or your competitor) from using the secrets that have been improperly taken from you.
Trade secret litigation is complex. Call us if we can help.