Trade Secrets — What You Don’t Safeguard Might Hurt You!
Is your company’s hard-earned, valuable, confidential data at risk? Are you taking all the steps you should to safeguard this information?
In a recent global report by Symantec, 50% of employees who lost or left their jobs in the past 12 months indicated they kept confidential company data. Of these, 40% indicated they planned to use the proprietary information in their new jobs. Exacerbating the situation is the perception on the part of employees that it is acceptable to take confidential corporate information, and that their companies do not care.
Obviously, companies should care. Trade secrets, which broadly comprise valuable information that is kept secret to afford an economic advantage, take on many forms: a formula, a recipe, a customer list, patterns, projections, etc. Companies need to strictly enforce policies relating to these data and proactively secure them — they cannot rely upon government enforcement actions to protect them, as we recently reported.
Rather, employers should develop, implement and police a trade secrets protection plan. At minimum, this should involve: 1) auditing their policies, non-disclosure and restrictive covenant agreements (particularly in light of recent legislative changes at the federal and state levels); 2) analyzing their physical security of files, information, computer equipment and assets, as well as security access for employees, particularly off-site or remote access; and 3) scrutinizing departing employees. We have previously reported on recent federal developments, a District Court case in New Jersey, and a New Jersey State Court decision in this critical area of any business.