Protection of your trade secrets is essential for the success of your business. It is imperative that you take steps to protect your trade secrets now and in the future. The first step is meeting with our South Carolina business attorney to discuss strategies and develop a comprehensive Trade Secret Protection Plan. However, if you need help immediately while you wait for an appointment with an attorney, below are seven steps our South Carolina corporate law lawyers advise you take now to protect your trade secrets.
Seven Steps You Can Take Now to Protect Your Trade Secrets
- Require that all employees sign confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements as a condition for employment: In addition to requiring that key employees sign confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, you should also extend that policy to prospective investors, marketing representatives, and any other individual who may have access to your trade secrets.
- Create and appoint a Trade Secret Compliance Officer: It does not do much good to have a comprehensive plan in place to protect your trade secrets, unless you have someone responsible for implementing the plan and enforcing the provisions of the plan. Some of the duties the compliance officer will assume as part of the procedure for protecting trade secrets is performing detailed record keeping, ensuring all agreements are executed correctly, collecting all protected materials when an employee leaves, and conducting exit interviews. If questions arise about trade secret protection, the compliance officer would be the person in charge of answering the question or developing an answer if necessary.
- Restricting access to trade secrets: Access to trade secrets must be limited to individuals who must have access to this information to perform their job duties. Remember, if an employee only needs some of the information related to the trade secret to perform his or her job duties, limit access to necessary information only instead of all information about the trade secret. Do not forget to use physical safeguards too. Keep trade secret information behind locked doors with restricted access. Group employees with access to trade secrets in specific, restricted areas. If documents are to be kept at desks or in file cabinets, all desks and cabinets should have state-of-the-art security locks, in addition to the doors to the area having high-tech security.
- Limit copies of confidential materials: Employees and others should be prohibited from copying confidential information, in any format. If an employee or other person requires a copy of the confidential information, this request should go through the Trade Secret Compliance Officer.
- All documents must have a trade secret designation clearly visible on the document and file: As part of your trade secret protection plan, you need a uniform system for identifying and marking documents related to trade secrets. Ensure that everyone with access to this information understands how to mark confidential items and recognize confidential items that should be treated with the highest level of security.
- Maintain computer security: Some companies neglect to ensure that trade secret information is secure on company computers and networks. All trade secrets files should have limited access. Employees and others must use a unique login and password to access restricted files so that the compliance officer can track access to these files.
- Educate all employees on trade secret protection procedures: All employees need to understand if they accidentally access restricted files or information related to trade secrets to notify the compliance officer immediately. If an employee witnesses unauthorized access, copying, or distribution of trade secrets, the employee must contact the compliance officer immediately.
In addition to discussing trade secrets with employees before they are hired and at the initial orientation, you should schedule regular meetings with all employees to review the company’s Trade Secret Protection Policy and Plan. Employees should have a clear understanding of the harm stolen secrets can cause for the company and the employees. In addition, employees should understand the consequences of disclosing trade secrets.
Contact Our South Carolina Corporate Law Lawyers for Additional Steps for Protecting Trade Secrets
The above steps are just some of the steps you need to take to protect your company’s trade secrets. Schedule a consult with a member of our team at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A. today. Our South Carolina corporate law lawyers can answer your questions, develop an effective plan to protect trade secrets, and litigate allegations of trade secret theft.