Trade secrets can include not only the obvious intellectual property categories such as new inventions, technologies, and improved processes but also materials such as customer lists and contacts, marketing tactics, your business processes or procedures, pricing discounts, information, vendor contacts, and other information.
Examples of trade secrets that you may already be familiar with include:
- Coca Cola’s Formula
- Recipes like Big Mac’s special sauce recipe
- KFC’s recipe
- Google’s search algorithm
Maybe you don’t feel like you have a “world-class” trade secret to protect, but I would almost guarantee that your business has at least one trade secret that deserves special attention and care.
If you’re struggling to identify what that may be, it can help to look at trade secrets on a more basic level. Essentially, a trade secret is anything in your business that is not known or readily accessible by your competitors. Common examples that you may be overlooking include:
- Client lists
- Proprietary computer programs
- Sales call scripts
- Business process or procedure
- Business plans
- Industry forecasts
- Marketing plans
- Research and development data
- Pricing data
What Happens Once You Identify a Trade Secret?
Once you identify the trade secrets that may exist in your business, you must take steps to keep them secure! One of the best ways to protect your trade secrets is to ensure that only the employees that need access have it. Ensure that everyone who has access to them is aware that they are confidential and a competitive advantage. Maintain the secrecy by having employees and partners sign nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements, and by stamping documents with the word “Confidential.” In addition, it is important to enforce physical security measures such as locked doors, safes, and fences.
By taking these precautions, you can help to ensure that your trade secrets remain safe. Once the secret is out, (even if by breach of contract) it is no longer a secret and thus no longer protected.
If you have questions about trade secrets in your business, or you are concerned that someone is using a trade secret of your company without permission, please contact us. Our intellectual property attorneys are here to guide you through your options. For assistance getting started, contact us at (888) 666-0062.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.