The advantage of having trade secrets is that competitors or the public do not know them. It is generally the company’s belief that this information gives it an edge, and so it is in its best interest to ensure that this sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands. The ways it can happen varies, but often it occurs because employees leave the company.
Measures for current employees
Several proactive measures can reduce the risk:
- Have employees with access to sensitive information sign a non-disclosure agreement.
- Inform or provide training to employees about expectations regarding the trade secret.
- Keep the information under lock and key, or limit access to it.
- Label the information as confidential.
Taking these steps reminds the employee of their obligations and gives the company legal grounds if the departed employee uses the information.
Other measures when they leave
There should be a process for an employee to exit if they give notice. Either way, some precautions include:
- Removing their access passwords or changing them.
- Get all company equipment back.
- Have an exit interview that includes reminders of their obligations.
Legal action may be necessary
It may become clear that the employee did not follow through with their obligations. Businesses with the above safeguards in place can take swift action that ranges from legal action enforcing their contract, seeking an injunction and even pursuing damages. Attorneys can help with these actions, but they also can work with the client to draft effective employee contracts on an ongoing basis.