Many companies have valuable assets such as recipes, customer lists, operational processes and other intellectual property (IP) that give them a competitive edge over others in the same industry. The dissemination of such information to just anyone could result in a company’s demise.
Companies in possession of this valuable information are expected to reasonably guard these intellectual assets. Unfortunately, the term “reasonable” seems too vague for many to conceptualize.
What does it mean to “reasonably” protect trade secrets?
The first step to protecting a trade secret is to identify the IP they are safeguarding clearly. Any such description should be pretty general (not to give the secret away) but clear enough that anyone in possession of that information can clearly identify the proprietary information.
A second step that you must take to show that you’ve undertaken reasonable efforts to protect the intellectual property is to document handling instructions regarding it. You must document:
- Circumstances under which they may need to gain access to the privileged material.
- Steps anyone with rights to the material should take when accessing it to ensure no unauthorized individuals gain access.
You should have anyone who will have access to the IP sign a confidentiality agreement. That agreement should highlight the implications of disclosing such information without the IP holder’s consent, as well.
As an IP holder, it’s expected that you’ll take the necessary measures to safeguard your rights. This may include:
- Storing your assets off-premises.
- Having a password and encryption on the electronic device where the information is stored.
- Regularly conducting safety audits to ensure that the protection measures you have employed are most effective.
You should also limit who can gain access to your trade secrets to minimize the chances of it getting into the wrong hands.
What to do if reasonable measures to protect your IP fail
There’s only so much that you can do as an IP holder to reasonably protect any assets that you have. If you’ve taken all the necessary measures and someone has still violated your rights, then it may be time to consider pursuing litigation. There’s a lot that goes into building an IP violation case, so you’ll want to get started right away.