Click to Print

Trade Secrets

Definition: Information used by a business, which can be legally protected that is secret to the general public and is critical to the livelihood and success of a business

How a product is made or ingredients that go into it, even customer lists, can be protected as a trade secret. Source codes for computer programs and the formula for Coca-Cola® are common examples. The critical requirement for trade secret protection lies in maintaining the secret. Methods or information revealed to the public cannot be protected under trade secret laws.

As is the case with computer crime, protecting your trade secrets and other proprietary information is largely a matter of common sense. The first thing to do is identify your trade secrets. These include any information you use to operate your business that you consider valuable enough--and secret enough--to give you an edge over your competition. Trade secrets can be product designs, customer lists, sales forecasts and many other types of data.

Once you've conducted an audit of your trade secrets, you need to set up policies to protect them. These can consist of the following: