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Protecting Business Secrets
Author: Geoffrey Michael
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

One of the key success in business is the ability to attract customers. While there are many ways to do this, it helps if you're offering products or services that beat the competiton. This could be through better quality, lower prices, superior design, and greater innovation. Maintaining an edge requires that you keep your original ideas from being stolen by others who might profit from them.

One of the key success in business is the ability to attract customers. While there are many ways to do this, it helps if you're offering products or services that beat the competiton. This could be through better quality, lower prices, superios design, and greater innovatoin. Maintaining an edge requires that you keep your original ideas from being stolen by others who might profit from them.

This article provides an overview of the various ways tp protect your company's secrets. In an age where computer hacking and identity theft are commonplace, workplace security is more important than ever.

Intellectual property laws protect the rights of the creators of original works and are designed to foster entrepreneurship and promote economic growth. It's far more liely that people willl endure the risk associated with inventing and developing new things if they know that they'll directly benefit financially if they succeed. These laws cover everything from original works of art to scientific inventions and are focused in three areas:

Intellectual Property

  • Patents- This is an exclusive property right granted to an inventor. It's legally enforceable until it expires or is extended. The enforcement period depends on the type of patent, but is typically 14-20 years in duration. A patent can be sold or transferred like any other property, usually for a fixed amount or future royalties.
  • Copyrights- Copyrights protect all original works of authorship, to include: sheet music, books, newspapers, magazines, movies, videos, all forms of sound recordings, drawings, paintings, photographs, sculpture, dramatic renderings, and works or architecture. Copyrights are eclusive to the owner and most rights are enforceable for the life of the creator plus 70 years.
  • Trademarks- Trademark registration protects your logo, symbol, name, or any other mark that is unique to your products or services. A great trademark instantly distinguishes one competitor from another, such as Nike's swoosh. YOur rights to use of the trademark are exclusive and extend for ten years. As long it remains in current use, you can renew it every ten years thereafter.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are not registered or diclosed to the government. The best way to prevent your company's trade secrets from disclosure is to do it yourself.

There are valid reasons for deciding not to patent a company secret. The details of a patent are disclosed to the world and your protection has an expiration date. After that, anyone can duplicare your idea and sell it. Trade secrets are never disclosed and never expire. So as long as you safeguard your secrets, you can benefit from them indefinitely to the exclusion of others. Sine its formula was never patented, Coca-Cola has been able to dominate its market for decades by keeping the ingredients secret.

Non-disclosure agreements (NDA)

NDAs are a critical component of businesses that rely on other to manufacture their products. Even if you make everything yourself, there are often good reasons to ensure that your suppliers don't disclose the details of the raw materials they're selling you. A NDA is a contract that outlines the specific purpose and anture of the information to be shared between you an any company or individual with whom you have business dealings that must remain private. The information could include produt specifications, materials used, proprietary designs, customer details, and any other trade secrets that can't be disclosed.

The agreement contains provisions about how the information will be protected and how long those protections will remain in effect. Most NDAs are one-sided where only one of the parties to the agreement is disclosing information that must be protected. However, multilateral agreements are also executed where all the parties are sharing secrets with each other.


If you're a sole proprietor, that greatly simplifies the process of securing your secrets. Mark them as "proprietary" and lock them up. Make sure your computer has a firewall and virus protections, and change your login password frequently. Put documents through a commercial- quality shredder before disposing of them.

If you hire employees, have them sign NDAs and include a provision granting you the rights to any intellectual property they create while working for you. You can also impose a non-competition clause that kicks in if they leave your employment. Only give keys, combinations and passwords to those who absolutley need them, and change them all when an employee leaves.

Be careful of the information you put on yout website or catalog. While it's important to fully describe your product to promote sales, there's no reason to include details that might jeopardize a trade secret.


Commercial trade secrets are protected by federal law. Violations of the Economic Espionage Act may result in fines and imprisonment, as well as the forfeiture of all property used to commit the crimes and all moneys gained from it. A private cause of action is available in most states under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Available civil remedies include injunctions, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.


Protecting business secrets is crucial to your success. If you don't, your ideas nd products may be stolen by others looking to profit from them. The time and expense of obtaining a patent shouldn't deter you from going that route if you have a concept that's worth the investment. At a minimum, you should ensure that your secrecy must be used and protected.

It seems like everyday there's another story in the news about a major comapny that's been hacked. The digital revolution has made it harder than ever to protect secrets, making it all the more critical that you do everything possible to keep your valued data safe. If needed, consult with a security expert who can advise you on the latest safeguards available. If you're considering patent or copyright protection, talk to an attorney who specializes in intellectual property.

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