Some company assets are worth more than golds or diamonds.
And that assertion is not even remotely close to being hyperbole.
Take so-called “trade secrets,” for example. Does restaurant chain KFC’s oft-touted proprietary blend of herbs and spices spur sales and drive the company’s sustained profitability? Are Coca-Cola executives constantly thankful for the ability to proclaim their mainstay soft drink’s time-honored secret formula?
The answer to those queries is adamantly clear: A trade secret can be – indeed, often is – an invaluable company asset. An in-depth overview of trade secret protection duly notes that, “Protecting that secret and keeping it out of the hands of competitors can be vital to the continued success of a business.”
Safeguarding trade secrets: Being lax or passive won’t do the trick
The above-cited recipe/formula mention denotes only a small slice in what is a much larger universe of proprietary company assets worth safeguarding. Broadly speaking, the aforementioned overview notes that even “a special part that goes into a widget” can be a trade secret meriting rigorous protection.
Businesses possess all kinds of trade secrets. A select manufacturing process might qualify. Ditto a particular algorithm or software program. Certain patterns, methods, practices, procedures – all these things and more can be of top-tier value to an enterprise. Prudent and forward-looking business principals logically want to keep them under close wraps and immune from third-party misappropriation.
How can they best accomplish that? Does merely construing something as a trade secret make it so?
Quick and candid answer: definitely not. Considering an asset a trade secret is just a first step in securing its protection. Companies must take a number of practical and judicially detectable steps to safeguard proprietary assets. Courts overseeing an intellectual property dispute featuring a trade secret will want to see evidence of the following:
- Overt company recognition of assets deemed trade secrets, coupled with a system of identification
- Systematic confidential treatment of all info/data relating to a trade secret
- Rigorous controls exerted over company computer security (e.g., vetted employee use and password protection)
- Strict confidential/use protocols exercised concerning trade secret outsourcing, licensing or other use by any outside parties
- Establishment of quality company training policies/procedures, coupled with execution of protective employment agreements (for example, noncompete and nondisclosure contracts)
Protecting valuable company assets is an imperative for every commercial enterprise. An experienced intellectual property legal team can help ensure that the job gets done.