Trade secrets are often among the most valuable intellectual property held by a business. An organization’s trade secrets could include proprietary recipes or manufacturing processes, contractor rosters and any other non-public information that gives the business some kind of commercial advantage.
Businesses often go to great lengths to protect their trade secrets. The protection of company intellectual property like trade secrets may influence everything from how the company manufactures products to what it includes in employment contracts. Identifying the biggest threats to an organization’s trade secrets may help a business better plan to protect its intellectual property. These parties are most likely to misappropriate or misuse trade secrets.
Obviously, a business that has lost its competitive edge because of another company’s unique products or services will have an interest in duplicating its process. They may also have an interest in contacting their vendors or reaching out to their customers. Therefore, it is important to identify competitors who might have an interest in trade secrets and to take steps to keep them from accessing that information. For example, businesses may secure certain information to prevent outside access, such as keeping client lists on a password-protected server instead of providing printed copies for workers that someone could easily photograph.
The employees at the company
Workers can potentially take the information that they learn at a company and attempt to use it for personal benefit. They might start a competing business where they duplicate a company’s recipe or seek out a job with a competitor and then provide them with a client list or other trade secrets that would allow them to infringe upon the former employer’s operations.
Businesses will often need to implement proactive measures to protect their intellectual property and also monitor the marketplace so that they can identify if another party has seemingly misused their trade secrets to take enforcement actions against the infringing party. Unlike other forms of intellectual property, trade secrets do not have any sort of formal protection or registration attached to them, but that lack of formal registration does not inherently prevent enforcement efforts.
Recognizing the misuse of trade secrets as an intellectual property violation may help a business fight back against unethical practices. Seeking legal guidance can help to clarify these kinds of frustrating, consequential scenarios.