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Protecting your trade secrets and employee mobility

Your company started with an idea. If you knew your idea was cutting edge and perhaps revolutionary, you were excited to make it available to the public. As your Texas business grows, so do your ideas because the world does not stand still, and your industry may be among those defined by rapid change. The trick for you is to continue expanding your business without letting the secrets of your trade get into the hands of your competitors.

Competition is fierce in many industries. This is why it is difficult to find and keep talented individuals. The employees who help move you to the next level are always looking for a better opportunity. So how can you protect their ability to move forward with their careers without jeopardizing your trade secrets?

Being proactive

There is no way around the fact that your employees are the biggest risk to your trade secrets. The ability to share information with a single click makes your business vulnerable every day. Therefore, it is important that you take steps to protect yourself and your trade secrets from the beginning of the hiring process through the day an employee departs your company, including these and other steps:

  • Establishing a firm policy against accepting or using any confidential information a new hire may bring from a previous employer, and honoring any enforceable post-employment agreements from competitors
  • Screening applicants carefully to determine their levels of integrity
  • Drafting a solid and enforceable employment contract that protects your company's secrets and other legitimate interests
  • Establishing an atmosphere where confidentiality and care with trade secrets is a strict policy
  • Limiting access to trade secrets only to those who must have it
  • Taking steps to protect trade secrets immediately after learning of an employee's intention to depart, including collecting company property, disconnecting the employee's email and transferring certain clients to other employees

In your exit interview, it is critical that you review with your employee the confidentiality contract he or she signed as a new hire and discuss the specific company information or trade secrets to which the contract applies. Since courts often view employment contracts with suspicion, you would be wise to ask a skilled attorney to review yours. An attorney can also be an invaluable resource if you discover a former employee has violated your trust by sharing trade secrets.

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Sturm Law PLLC
712 Main Street Suite 900
Houston, TX 77002

Phone: 713-955-1800
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