Are you a startup or a small to medium-sized business in the Greater Houston area? Do you need a business legal advisor or a small business attorney?
You might have used a startup lawyer, a business disputes lawyer, or a corporate formation attorney in the past. Have you considered using a trade secrets attorney?
You may wonder why keeping trade secrets confidential requires a specialist law firm. Texas trade secret statutes are in place to help you seek to recover damages. Should a third party violate your sensitive information policies, you’ll know what to do.
You must take reasonable measures to preserve this secrecy, and there’s a fine balance to strike in defining what this means.
If you want to know what trade secrets are and what steps to take to guard them, you should follow our guide. We’ll also cover educating your team and protecting offsite data access. Read on!
WHAT ARE TRADE SECRETS?
When securing copyrights and patents with a trademark lawyer, include intellectual property (IP). If a company has valuable internal assets that do not fall within traditional categories, you may be able to protect them as trade secrets.
A trade secret is information of importance that pertains to your business. This commercially valuable IP should be unknown or unavailable to your competition.
Some examples of trade secrets are business processes, formulas, and programs. To keep your trade secrets valid, you must be able to prove that you are taking reasonable steps to keep them private. The measures you take to protect your trade secrets will help substantiate their presence and worth.
Protecting them shouldn’t become an expensive and inefficient endeavor. Measures that hamper the productivity of your business might be unreasonable to put in place.
Since 2016, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) has created a legal pathway for policing trade secrets under federal law. This reflects the state-level Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), adopted by Texas and most other states.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT TRADE SECRETS?
To ensure your IP remains confidential, your business must create security measures. These practices should stop trade secrets from leaking out in the first place. Drawing up a formal plan to outline these goals is the best practice for a successful strategy.
Restricting access to valuable files is one way to achieve this end. Physical restrictions at the front door are another effective method. Also, think about locking down access to certain rooms within your buildings too.
A lock-and-key filing system is another solid measure that can protect hard copies of sensitive information.
Have a system in place that logs employees who have permission to view key documents. This will enable you to keep track of who has viewed these files and keep staff accountable. It will also make employees think twice about stealing this sensitive information.
Labeling confidential files as such is another good practical measure.
Have your IT staff disable or restrict the ability for sensitive files to be printed. There are also actions that you should consider prohibiting, such as the use of personal email and digital storage devices.
EDUCATING YOUR TEAM
Have all team members and clients sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA reminds individuals of their legal responsibilities to respect confidential information. It also serves to warn of the serious legal repercussions for violations.
You must be able to prove that protections like these are in place. Without this proof, it is unlikely that you will be able to assert control of your trade secrets in court.
Employees must be trained to follow any internal policies that are in place to protect the integrity of these secrets. You will also need to establish a system that monitors and enforces compliance so your IP security practices are not bypassed.
Make sure that your staff members can tell the difference between information that’s sensitive and that which isn’t.
Additionally, training should focus on the wider issues of online data safety. Targeted attacks from cybercriminals often attempt to trick lower-level staff. This can result in the creation of access holes that bypasses security protocols.
Failing to ensure that your staff complies with your IP protections is seen by the courts as failing to protect the information itself. When this happens, trade secrets cease to exist and no longer have legal protections.
PROTECTING OFFSITE ACCESS
Increasing numbers of employees are engaging in remote work. As a result, keeping trade secrets safe is ever more challenging.
Workers who are telecommuting should ideally be supplied with secured equipment. This way, your IT staff can mitigate the risks introduced by unsecured home equipment. Staff should preferably be using a wired ethernet connection or should at least use secure private Wi-Fi networks.
Limit access to sensitive data even further for your remote staff.
A virtual private network (VPN) creates a private network on an internet connection. Having a VPN encrypt confidential information as it leaves your company intranet is a highly recommended action.
Physical devices and program platforms used for work must be secure. Also, consider how your employees communicate.
Informal channels like home cell phones are a weak link that is outside of your control. Dictating the acceptable secure channels that will be used protects all forms of communication. These may otherwise be vulnerable to interception.
Staff members who leave the company, whether temporarily or permanently, should be briefed on their NDA. They should be reminded that internal policy obligations will remain in place. Always revoke access to your IT system and before they leave, make sure that all physical devices are accounted for.
Remember that if your practices and policies are ignored, you must quickly take action per DTSA law. Your business litigation attorney will help you protect your valuable trade secrets.
SECURING TRADE SECRETS
We’ve shown that to keep trade secrets safe takes a solid plan and decisive action. Don’t be daunted by legal unknowns and grey areas.
If you need a trade secret law firm, we can help. We are Houston business lawyers and a business formation attorney practice, and we are proud to provide legal support in Texas. We offer our clients trade secret protection agreements and forms to keep proprietary information safe and we litigate trade secret violations.
Contact us today for a free consultation.