Trade secrets are the ins and outs of a company’s operations that those companies have the right to keep as their private intellectual property. In many cases, employers have spent a large amount of money in hiring, training, and retaining employees. When employees transfer to another employer, there is a risk that they might provide a substantial benefit to their new employer by sharing this information at the cost to the former employer.
If companies fail to consider the best ways in which to secure trade secrets, however, there is a significant risk that this very type of activity might occur. Fortunately, there are some steps that companies can take to reduce the chances of trade secrets being shared with rival companies after an employee leaves.
Understand What a Trade Secret is
Trade secrets refer to information that is generally not known to the public, have been subject to reasonable efforts to maintain confidentiality, and contain some type of economic value for the holder. The best way to begin deciding if information is a trade secret is if it is information that you would not want a competitor to have.
If you have a trade secret, you must make sure to protect it or risk losing money. For example, you should use non-disclosure agreements and other documents in an effort to keep trade secrets confidential.
Keep a List of Your Trade Secrets
By establishing a list of what trade secrets a company has, you can determine what steps are required to protect this information as well as rule out what information does not constitute a trade secret and cannot be protected.
Conduct a Sufficient Exit Interview
It is important that companies that want to fully protect trade secrets utilize a proper exit interview. Conducting sufficient exit interviews helps to greatly decrease the chances that an employee will share trade secrets. Some of the elements that are included in the best exit interviews include the following:
- Determine if the employee has any information on his or her cloud-based services or on any technology at home. You should make sure that the worker surrenders any property including documents, files, laptops, materials, and smartphones as well as requiring the employee to sign an agreement that he or she has not kept any items including copies of documents detailing trade secrets.
- Employees should be provided a copy of any confidentiality agreements as well as reminders about any obligations that exist in relationship to the company’s trade secrets.
- Terminate the employee’s passwords, access to system information, email accounts, identification badges, and parking cards.
- If there is any reason to suspect that a worker has misappropriated or shared trade secrets, search his or her computer files, emails, and other digital information.
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