Your company’s proprietary information is your secret sauce. It’s what makes your company distinct and competitive in the market. Yet too few businesses put real time and attention into protecting this valuable information.
If information is stolen and you choose to pursue legal measures, you have an obligation to show that you took reasonable steps to protect your proprietary data. But this kind of litigation can be a slow process that may never really compensate you for your loss. So don’t wait for your confidential information to walk out the door. Take action now by making a small but continued investment in protecting your business’s trade secrets.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Secure non-disclosure agreements: Don’t let impatience or an assumed sense of trust prevent you from getting a signed non-disclosure agreement before you begin confidential business discussions. Make it standard business practice to use these agreements whenever sensitive information could be revealed.
- Customize non-disclosure agreements: There’s no one size fits all for these contracts. Consult with an attorney who will help you draft legally defensible agreements that outline the nature of the obligation, what constitutes a breach, and what is considered permitted use. Typically, these agreements will vary for vendors, employees and business partners.
- Update agreements: Put quality assurance measures in place to validate that these agreements are properly signed, dated, filed and updated as business relationships (such as employee or vendor roles) evolve.
- Compartmentalize information: When possible, keep proprietary information separate and distinct from routine business information. These practices make it easier to restrict access, trace those who viewed confidential files, avoid disclosure, and ultimately defend your legal position if necessary.
- Train employees: Provide staff education on what constitutes sensitive information and how to protect it. Training may include issues around on-site visitors, information carried offsite and photography in the workplace.