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Do you have trade secrets? Take proactive steps to protect them

Many small business owners in Minnesota don't realize that they even have trade secrets. If you consider yourself part of that group, you may want to reevaluate your business operations. Many processes, recipes, blueprints and schematics fall under the umbrella of trade secrets. For example, if you use your grandmother's secret recipe to make cookies that keep customers flocking to your establishment, then you own a trade secret.

If you determine that you have trade secrets, you may then want to consider how to protect them. Between employees, customers and competitors, your confidential information could make its way to someone else, which could put your business in jeopardy.

Take steps to protect your trade secrets

As a small business owner, you may not think that you need to protect your trade secrets. However, just because your business is small now doesn't mean it will stay that way. As your business grows, more people could want to know what makes your company a success, which means getting their hands on your secrets. Taking the following proactive steps now could save you problems in the future:

  • Mark any documents containing trade secret information as "confidential." You may also want to limit the amount of people who access this information. You could also require anyone who does access it to document when removing it and when returning it. This could help pinpoint a "leak" should your information become public.
  • Virtual documents need the same protections. Require the use of passwords and limit access to the pertinent files. You may consider encrypting the information as well.
  • Set up a system to monitor access to both virtual and hard copies of your trade secrets. Any unauthorized or suspect access may require investigation.
  • Just as you take security measures for digital information, you may also want to take security measures for physical information. How much security you need depends on your business and your level of trust.
  • Require employees to sign confidentiality and non-compete agreements that provide you with legal recourse should an employee divulge the information to an unauthorized or outside party.
  • Require confidentiality provisions in the contracts you sign with vendors. If you can, you may select different vendors to produce particular parts and assemble the whole within your facility. That way, no one outside the company knows how to put together the final product.

Taking these steps may provide you with a sense of safety and security when it comes to your trade secrets. However, someone determined enough may still obtain the information and cause harm to your business. Whether you need assistance in setting up protection for your trade secrets or need to understand your legal options if someone steals your trade secrets, legal resources here in Minneapolis are available to help.

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