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How businesses can be vulnerable to trade secret misappropriation

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Business & Commercial Law

As an entrepreneur, you’ve likely spent years building your brand and refining your business processes. It’s rewarding to finally have a system that not only works but brings you profits. But what happens when the fruits of your labor fall into the wrong hands, such as those of competitors? Each passing day could pose a risk to your business and its position in the market.

It’s not always a case of external theft. Sometimes, the vulnerability comes from within your organization. Here are some ways this could occur.

Unintended disclosures

Anyone in your company, even you, could inadvertently share insider information. A casual conversation at a business event or an overheard phone call could reveal what might seem small but is actually a valuable trade secret. Your business could be exploited if you unintentionally reveal such information. So, exercise caution about the information you share and the people you share it with.

Leaving trade secrets unprotected

Trade secrets aren’t like other forms of intellectual property. They’re not patented or copyrighted. Instead, their power lies in remaining unknown to the outside world. If you haven’t taken steps to protect these secrets, you’re leaving them vulnerable. It’s best to regularly train your team on the importance of keeping the secrecy of your trade secrets.

Employee turnover and trade secrets

Your employees likely have access to your trade secrets. When they leave your company, they take that knowledge with them. If they join a competitor or start a rival business, they could use that knowledge against you. It’s important to have policies in place to prevent this. Non-compete agreements were once a standard tool to prevent former employees from using trade secrets to compete against you. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) banned them in April 2024.

As such, you may need to rely more heavily on non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and other strategies. Upon hiring, employees with needed access to confidential information should sign these NDAs to protect your intellectual property.

You can never be too careful

The threat of trade secret misappropriation isn’t always from external sources. Sometimes, the danger comes from within. By being mindful of what information you share and how you share it, you can protect your trade secrets from these vulnerabilities. Consider consulting an attorney for help with intellectual property issues and specific circumstances.