Table of Contents
- What Are Trade Secrets?
- Know What Needs Protection
- Ensure Documents With Confidential Information Are Labeled
- Employee Training
- Signing Of Non Disclosure Agreements
- Limit The Contact The Public Has With Your Business
- Ensure You Maintain Secrecy Between Your Business And Supplier
- Talk To An Attorney For Professional Guidance
A business is a worthwhile venture that needs to be protected at all costs. At a non compete attorney’s office, most of the client’s visit our offices looking for ways to secure their business. As a business owner, you need to note that your business’s success is often dependent on how protected your trade secrets are. In business, every party, e.g., competitor, employee e.t.c, might turn out to be your biggest enemy. A former employee upon termination, resignation, or even during employment might hijack your trade secrets and use them to their advantage. They can do so by starting a competitor business that ultimately assumes your identity or joining a competitor business and using your trade secrets to the competitor’s advantage.
What Are Trade Secrets?
The definition of a trade secret is found in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act CAP 688 of Florida Laws. Under the act, a trade secret is information that can include a formula, compilation, program, pattern, device, or process from which a business derives its economic value because the information is unknown to a party that can use it to the disadvantage of your business. As the name suggests, trade secrets intend to protect the secrecy of your business.
As a business owner, the protection of trade secrets is solely for your best interest. If you are in a dilemma on the best ways of protecting your trade secrets, you are not alone because this is a struggle that most business owners undergo. Here are some tips that can help you protect your business trade secrets:
Know What Needs Protection
While every aspect of your business is essential, not everything is a trade secret. For this reason, you need to identify some of the things you wish to protect. Information like customer lists is worth protecting because they provide economic value to the business. If a competitor gains access to your customer list, they might use the information to gain an economic advantage over you. Upon resignation or employment termination, some employees might also use the information on the customer list by stealing your existing clients and using them to grow their own business or a competitor’s business.
Another example of information worth protecting is secret restaurant recipes. Several restaurants across Miami are renowned for specific foods because of their secret recipes. When such a recipe gets into the hands of a third party, the restaurant can lose its customers to the new competitor. For economic safety, restaurants are often advised to conceal secret recipes from employees that are likely to use the information to gain economic value against the restaurant.
Always remember that your employees today might want to venture into their businesses tomorrow. Apart from earning a livelihood, what people seek in employment is experience and tapping into the secrets of their employer’s success. It is in an employer’s best interest to ensure that while employees benefit from the business, they don’t eventually steal your trade secrets. Therefore, ensure that you identify the information you want to protect and then contact someone such as Cantrell Zwetsch Non Compete Lawyer in Miami for guidance on protecting your trade secrets.
Ensure Documents With Confidential Information Are Labeled
The employer’s role does not stop at identifying the information to be protected. Under section 688.002(4)(b) of Florida’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act, a business has to make reasonable efforts to maintain the identified trade secrets’ secrecy.
Remember that not all business information qualifies to be a trade secret. For business information to qualify as a trade secret, the information must meet the following test. First, it must be secret, meaning the information is only known within the business either by the employees or other business associates. Secondly, the information has to be inaccessible to those not directly associated with the business. When it comes to trade secrets, only employees and close business associates owe you loyalty. Therefore, if such information lands in customers’ hands or an outside business, such parties don’t owe you an obligation to keep the information confidential.
One of the reasonable efforts to protect trade secrets is to ensure that all files and lockers containing physical documents are marked as confidential. Also, where business documents have to be shared with third parties like government agencies, always ensure that they are duly marked as confidential before disbursing such documents. Also, most modern-day documents are stored in electronic form. There is various software to lock such files and only give access to the necessary parties. If an employee gains access to confidential information stored electronically, it is always advisable that you request the employee in writing to delete the information. If the employee ends up using the information to their advantage, you can institute a claim.
Some employees do not understand the value of trade secrets or even don’t know what they are. Not every employee within your business is out to sabotage your economic prowess as all some want is to earn. Therefore the responsibility is on you as the employer to offer training to such employees to help them realize the value of trade secrets. After training, an employee who goes ahead and uses secret information to their advantage can be held liable for violating confidentiality.
Signing Of Non Disclosure Agreements
The best way for any business to protect its trade secrets is by requiring employees and business associates to sign non-disclosure agreements. The best feature about such agreements is that they deter employees from using confidential information during employment and even after leaving employment. A non compete lawyer in Miami can help you draft a non-disclosure agreement that has factored in all the information you want to protect. Such agreements follow the rules of contract law; therefore, an employee will be held accountable for their acts upon breach and will be compelled to return the trade secrets and pay damages.
Limit The Contact The Public Has With Your Business
One common trend that applies across most businesses is signing in visitors whenever they come to your business. An outsider does not owe your business an obligation to protect your trade secrets. However, when visitors are required to sign in, the documents they carry into the business and those they leave with are often recorded. Such steps can be held as reasonable efforts to protect your trade secrets.
Ensure You Maintain Secrecy Between Your Business And Supplier
While engaging in business, it is very easy for some of your information to leak to suppliers or vendors. Sourcing your supplies from various vendors can help maintain the secrecy of your trade secrets. Engaging suppliers through contracts can help solidify your business interactions. In the contract, you can include a non-disclosure agreement that can hold a party in breach liable for violating the non-disclosure agreement.
Talk To An Attorney For Professional Guidance
In general, trade secrets contribute to the growth and sustainability of a business. Therefore every focused business person will at all times ensure that their trade secrets are protected. Failure to be discreet on what information forms part of your trade secrets will put you in a disadvantaged position if you decide to sue the offending party. Further, the non-disclosure clauses have to adhere to the legal framework regulating employee policies. Therefore, you should contact an attorney for more tips on protecting your trade secrets and guidance on the drafting of non-disclosure agreements.