When a company has what it considers to be a trade secret, the fear of misappropriation becomes paramount. While there are various legal means for competitors to deduce or discover a trade secret, including hiring away employees with knowledge of the secret and certain reverse-engineering tactics, even legal means can be considered “misappropriation.” As a result, many companies mistakenly focus their resources on prosecution of misappropriation when they should, instead, focus equally on prevention of misappropriation.
Prevention is Crucial
An intellectual property attorney in California will advise their clients with trade secrets to have clear, fully documented procedures for the protection of their trade secrets because the courts require it for trade secret status. In other words, the courts only consider something to be a qualifying trade secret if steps are taken to protect it. A “secret” that is widely shared with no system in place for protection isn’t much of a secret, after all, and you cannot simply declare something a secret verbally and assume the full protection of the law.
Steps for Protecting Trade Secrets
An experienced intellectual property attorney in California can assist with creating a viable protection scheme for trade secrets, which should, at minimum, consist of the following components:
- Contractual language that offers explicit protection via confidentiality agreements, non-solicitation provisions, and/or intellectual property assignments.
- Data protection on servers and all network-reachable devices and files, including privilege management on users, strong password policies, and firewalls.
- Employee education should be mandatory, with employees acknowledging that they have been trained in how to protect confidential information.
- A legal plan, with clear steps to be taken at the first notice of a threat to their trade secret created in conjunction with their intellectual property attorney in California.