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Protecting trade secrets

17/09/2011

KFC treats Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices as its most valuable asset. Famously, the document containing the information had been moved only once, when it was carried in a locked briefcase handcuffed to armed guards inside an armored truck.  But not every business owner  wants to go to such lengths to protect their trade secrets.  Some practical ways to protect trade secrets are:

  • to clearly mark documents as “Confidential”;
  • to store secret electronic files on separate, secure servers;
  • to store secret paper documents under lock and key and out of view;
  • to ensure staff only have access to the information they need to know;
  • to publish clear policies about the protection of confidential information;
  • to train staff about the policy, its importance and the consequences of breaches;
  • to structure an audit programme that assures compliance with the policy;
  • to not make, keep or distribute multiple copies and to track their whereabouts;
  • to implement a robust security incident reporting and response system;
  • to require staff and consultants to sign binding confidentiality agreements;
  • to pre-arrange legal responses to the inadvertent or malicious disclosure of trade secrets;
  • to ensure confidential documents are not disclosed in litigation without redaction and appropriate undertakings.
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