Did you know that there are many products made with trade secrets? For example, one famous trade secret is the recipe for the iconic Coca-Cola soft drink. This iconic beverage has been around since 1886 when it was created by John Pemberton. The exact ingredients that make up the famous soft drink have never been revealed to the public. In fact, they are only known by a handful of employees who are sworn to secrecy through a legally binding non-disclosure agreement. The original recipe – along with changes the company has made since – is kept in a locked vault at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia.
This is an excellent example of how you can protect your business’s trade secrets, but not the only way. If your business has a trade secret that you need to protect, you need to have multiple strategies in place.
The intellectual property (IP) protection attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett have extensive experience in helping clients protect their IP, like trade secrets. We’ll walk you through multiple ways you can protect your business’s cash cow.
How Do Trade Secrets Work?
Trade secrets are special recipes or ideas that are not shared with the public. Keeping recipes, ideas, and more as trade secrets offer businesses a variety of legal protections to keep their valuable information safe.
Under U.S. law, trade secret owners can protect their secrets from unauthorized use or disclosure. They can do this in several different ways. The most common and consistent is by filing a civil lawsuit against anyone who uses or discloses the trade secret without permission. Trade secrets are also protected under criminal laws in many states. People and businesses that unlawfully acquire trade secrets through subterfuge, theft, or payment can face steep fines and jail time for their actions.
Additionally, some states have enacted statutes that provide additional damages to wronged businesses. These damages include:
- Injunctive relief
- Court costs
- Attorney’s fees
Finally, certain federal laws provide further protection for trade secrets related to interstate commerce by prohibiting the misappropriation of these trade secrets across state lines. By utilizing all of these legal protections, companies can ensure that their valuable information remains secure and confidential.
How Can You Protect Your Business’s Trade Secrets?
One of the most effective ways to protect trade secrets is through a legally binding non-disclosure agreement (NDA). These are contracts between the business and any individual or entity that has access to or is able to potentially access the trade secret. Someone does not need to have access to the trade secret to be asked to sign an NDA agreement.
What NDAs do is ensure that those involved with the trade secret are aware of their legal obligation to not disclose the secret. It also provides you with a legal course of action to hold someone responsible if they violate the NDA and attempt to or successfully release information about the trade secret.
Additionally, businesses should limit the number of people with access to trade secrets, as a general rule. It’s safe best practice to not have many people who know or can learn the trade secret. Businesses can do this by using security measures such as password protection and encryptions to protect digital information. If you need to have the trade secret on hand in your physical location(s), there should be heavy-duty physical security to protect it. This can be things such as locked vaults and highly-guarded restricted access areas in your buildings.
Policies and Procedures to Protect Your Business’s Trade Secrets
Businesses can also develop robust internal policies and procedures that govern how trade secrets are handled both internally and externally. These policies should cover topics such as:
- Storage and disposal of confidential materials
- Proper handling of confidential materials outside of the office
- Training on security guidelines for employees who handle confidential information
- Disciplinary actions for those who violate these guidelines
Need Help Protecting Your IP? Contact the Attorneys at ETB Law
Our attorneys have extensive experience with helping our clients protect their intellectual properties. This can be their trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. We’re familiar and experienced with the many different ways you can protect them all. If you need legal counsel on how to protect your business’s greatest asset, contact our attorneys today.