Aldrich Goldstein

Steps business owners should take to protect their trade secrets

Whether it's a secret recipe, a well-honed sales funnel, specially-designed technology or something else; most companies have an "it" factor that sets it apart from the competition. You likely put in years of hard work and invested significant financial resources to perfect what you do. You must be proactive in making sure that your trade secrets don't end up in the wrong hands.

If you don't currently know what it is that allows your company to stand out from the pack, then you need to think long and hard about it. You must be able to identify it.

Once you've identified what makes your company special, you'll want to restrict who has access to that knowledge. You may find it beneficiary to only allow employees working in certain capacities to know particular information. You should limit their access to information as much as possible.

Before you hire on a contractor or worker, you should have them review both your company privacy policies and/or an employee handbook. You should also provide training in-house so they'll know how to handle proprietary information. You should have them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement acknowledging that they've received and read over that information.

If a worker decides to leave their role with the company, then you may want to question them a bit about who they're going to work for. The main goal in doing this is for you be able to find out if they'll be employed in a capacity where your trade secrets could be helpful to them. You may find out that their new position violates the Non-Compete Agreement that they signed when they came to work for you.

You may also want to review their computer to see if they transmitted any proprietary information by email or saved it to a flash drive before their departure.

You must always remain vigilant for a worker who may attempt to take proprietary information from your company. If you suspect that an employee has done this, then you shouldn't confront them. You could potentially violate existing Oregon or federal employment laws depending on how you handled the situation.

You should instead reach out to a business law attorney in Portland. They can advise you of legal remedies that you can pursue to protect your rights to your own company's trade secrets.

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