In an economy like the one Florida and the rest of the country are experiencing, one of the last things on your mind might be the protection of your trade secrets. Like many businesses, yours may be feeling the impact of the tough financial times. The world health crisis, slow supply chain and rapidly rising prices have forced many companies down difficult paths to remain viable.
Undoubtedly, your employees are also stressed. They may be struggling to find new clients. Some might resent having to work remotely or having their opportunities reduced because of the economy. Unfortunately, these situations can lead to high turnover. If you are saying goodbye to some employees and searching for new ones to replace them, you might not realize how vulnerable your trade secrets are.
What is a trade secret?
The laws of both Florida and the federal government protect your trade secrets from misappropriation by former employees. However, it might not be easy to determine which of your company’s intellectual property falls under the category of trade secrets. You can ask the following questions:
- Is the information truly secret from the general public or your competitors?
- Have you taken appropriate steps to protect the secrecy of your information?
- Does your company gain financially from maintaining secrecy over the information?
If you answer yes to these questions, you are probably dealing with a trade secret. A departing employee who uses improper means to acquire or disclose this information, even partially, violates your rights.
Are you protecting your secrets?
Ideally, you would have a catalogue of your company’s trade secrets. The act of cataloguing will also keep you mindful of the information you need to protect. Additionally, your employees will need clear policies, thorough training and periodic reviews to ensure they understand how important it is to protect trade secrets. You might also consider taking advantage of technology that will alert you to unusual downloads on employee computers.
Perhaps the most important time to remind employees of their obligation to maintain secrecy is when they are leaving your employment. Advisors recommend waiting before recycling a former employee’s laptop or clearing server space to allow time for detecting any possible misappropriation. Additionally, for your own protection, you will want to carefully vet new hires to ensure they are not bringing illegally obtained trade secrets from a former employer.