Business owners: what you should know about trade secrets

If you operate a small business, then you know how crucial it is to set your company apart from competitors. Considering how much time and energy you put into distinguishing your business from the others through your marketing choices, products offerings and services, it is vital that you protect them.

These are all examples of trade secrets, and as a business owner, you would be wise to take steps to ensure they are not used or accessed by other parties without authorization.

What should I protect?

A trade secret is any confidential information that gives your company a competitive edge. This might include details on how you manufacture your products, client lists you have compiled, recipes, business plans, forecasts, algorithms, computer programs and other types of proprietary information that is valuable because it is not publicly available.

How can I protect our trade secrets?

In order to protect confidential business information, you must first establish that the information is indeed a trade secret. Once you confirm this, you must take steps to protect its confidentiality. This can involve:

  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Confidentiality agreements
  • Limiting physical and virtual access to the information
  • Storing information on secure computers 
  • Concealing various details of the final product when working with multiple vendors

Unlike patents and other means of protecting intellectual property, trade secrets do not require registration and they are in place as long as the information remains a secret. As such, it is vital that you utilize these and other tools to protect a trade secret.

Knowing your legal options

If you have questions about protecting trade secrets or if you are concerned about unauthorized use of a trade secret, then speaking to an attorney is crucial. 

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