Does your business possess certain information that gives you an advantage over your competitors? Perhaps you have a specific method, design or recipe that is a great asset because it increases your bottom line and places you ahead of other businesses that are similar to yours. We typically refer to such assets as trade secrets, and your continued success may hinge upon how well you protect your own.
In the United States, laws protect your trade secrets, although there is no specific trade secret registration process like there is for copyrights or trademarks. This can make for some pretty complicated situations concerning an employee's breach of contract or legal problems with a competing company. That's another reason most Texas business owners take steps to protect their intangible assets, which generally includes lining up a support team in case trouble arises.
Take these steps
If your goal is to protect your trade secrets while keeping up a good relationship with your employees, the following list of ideas may be useful:
- You can't protect what you have not identified. A first logical step to take to keep trade secrets safe is to make an itemized list of what they are.
- Advanced technology allows you to create digital lists, but you should also produce hard copies as backups, because we all know that data stored electronically is not always accessible.
- In addition to listing your trade secrets, you'll want to create separate lists stating where you have stored that information.
- Also make a list that includes the names of every person aware of the locations of your trade secret lists.
- Always require passwords to access stored information on company computers. Change those passwords often and be very cautious about whom you allow to know them.
- People coming through your company in a public setting, such as a tour, can steal your trade secrets as well. That's why it's often best to limit public access to your business.
If you plan to use non-compete agreements with your employees, it's a good idea to ask an experienced business and commercial law attorney to review the proposed wording of your agreement. This step can help you avoid major legal problems down the line.
Trade secrets may include physical items or intellectual property. You can seek legal enforcement of validly signed contracts. Taking the time to research Texas laws and to find out what resources are available if you run into problems regarding trade secrets can mean the difference between forging a path to profitability and letting your competitors gain the upper hand.