Protecting trade secrets from current and departing employees

Glenn W. Peterson

Many companies here in California and elsewhere rely on their intellectual property to keep their edge in their chosen markets. Even when they have patents, copyrights and trademarks, they ordinarily also have trade secrets. It is vital that these companies take steps to protect them from current and departing employees.

Many employees are loyal. They would never reveal the secrets of the companies they work for, but others would and they are the ones companies need to protect themselves against. This can be done in several ways.

Companies can begin by creating and implementing policies regarding how trade secrets will be handled and who will have them. Such policies can outline the steps to take, the reasonable efforts to use and the consequences of revealing trade secrets. Employers could require employees who will deal with sensitive information to execute confidentiality and/or non-disclosure agreements that could be enforced in a California court if an employee breaches them.

Confidentiality with anyone from outside the company is also essential. In order for a company to defend its trade secrets, it must make reasonable efforts to keep them secret. This means protecting this information from as many people as possible. Of course, it would be impossible to run the business without someone within the organization having access to the information, but in those instances, the above measures could help and provide a method of recourse.

Protecting trade secrets is a priority of many companies. The problem is they may not know what measures they can take to do so. It would be beneficial to work with an intellectual property attorney who can help create and implement the appropriate policies, draft confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, and defend against any breaches that occur.