A trade secret is the secret sauce of any business. It is information that sets your company apart from you competition and it is information that your competitors would find valuable. The good news about trade secrets is that their life is limitless. The bad news is that once a trade secret has been exposed, it is gone forever.
Trade secrets can include items of information that you may not immediately consider are valuable. But if you think of what your competition might find valuable, your scope may widen. For example, trade secrets may include pricing, customer or supplier lists, employee names and contact information, and manufacturing practices.
Protecting a trade secret from exposure is critical. The first thing to do is identify all of your organization’s trade secrets or otherwise proprietary information. Next, you should limit access to the information only on a “need to know” basis. This means that manufacturing may not need to have access to pricing information, while accounting may not need to know the nuances of some manufacturing techniques that enhance quality.
In addition, employees should be trained on how to handle trade secret information. Once trade secrets have been inventoried, those within an organization designated as “need to know” should understand how to protect the trade secrets entrusted to them. A confidentiality agreement should always be used when disclosing any trade secret information, including agreements with employees.