Protecting Your Trade Secrets, Part I

Antsy about your trade secrets when employees leave? Read these suggestions to make sure they keep mum about your business.

A departing employee may compromise trade secrets-formulas,patterns, devices or compilations of information used in yourbusiness which give you a competitive advantage.

Information as seemingly mundane as a customer list or pricingplan, or as complex as a biological invention or software program,may constitute a trade secret. To determine this, courts considerwhether anyone outside your company knows the secret, which peoplein your company know it, what measures were taken to maintainsecrecy, the value of the information, and how easily it could belegally acquired or duplicated.

Although the law requires employees to preserve theiremployer's trade secrets, a company may have confidentialinformation that doesn't qualify for this protection. Thus,having new employees sign a nondisclosure or confidentialityagreement protecting all sensitive information is a wiseprecaution. Such an agreement can identify the information to beprotected, impress upon the employee the seriousness of theobligation, and provide critical evidence if there's ever adispute.

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